Where Is History Today? New Ways of Representing the Past
Edited by Marcel Arbeit and Ian Christie
Where Is History Today?
Where Is History Today? New Ways of Representing the Past
Edited by Marcel Arbeit and Ian Christie
Palacký University Olomouc Olomouc 2015
This volume was published within the project “Re-presenting the Past: New Methods of History Interpretation in Arts and the Media,“ CZ 1.07/2.3.00/20.0068, co-financed by the European Social Fund and the state budget of the Czech Republic. Reviewers: M. Thomas Inge (Randolph-Macon College, Ashland, VA) Roman Trušník (Tomas Bata University in Zlín) Michaela Weiß (Silesian University in Opava) First Edition Any unauthorized use of the work is an infringement of copyright and may be subject to civil, administrative or criminal liability. Cover: Charlie Chaplin as Adenoid Hynkel in The Great Dictator (Charles Chaplin Production, 1940). The Great Dictator © Roy Export SAS. Scan courtesy of Cineteca di Bologna. Editors © Marcel Arbeit, Ian Christie, 2015 Introduction © Ian Christie, 2015 Chapters © Frank Ankersmit, Marcel Arbeit, Pavel Bednařík, Ian Christie, Tomáš Elbel, Andrea Hanáčková, Tomáš Jirsa, Jakub Korda, Jiří Lach, Laura Mulvey, Roger Odin, Daniel Pick, Martin Škabraha, Radmila Švaříčková Slabáková, Elizabeth Woock, 2015 © Palacký University Olomouc, 2015 ISBN 978-80-244-4760-5
Introduction: What We Talk about When We Talk about History 9 ian christie 1 Who and Where Are the Audiences for History Today? 13 Jiří Lach 2 Women Making History: Gleaning and the Compilation Film 27 Laura Mulvey 3 Cold War Shaken, Not Stirred: James Bond as a Double Agent of Ideology and Entertainment 39 Pavel Bednařík 4 Hidden in Plain Sight: Uncovering the Secret History of Brainwashing – A Dialogue 55 Daniel Pick and Ian Christie 5 Visiting a City, Watching a Film 71 Roger Odin 6 Re-living History in a Television Documentary – D-day: As It Happens 79 Jakub Korda 7 Sacred Re-Enactments: Representations of the Franciscan Past after the Reformation 91 Martin Elbel 8 Lost in Pattern: Rococo Ornament and Its Journey to Contemporary Art through Wallpaper 101 Tomáš Jirsa 9 Where Is Oral History Today? Individual Memory and the Stories about the Nazi Period 121 radmila švaříčková slabáková
10 An Audio Drama on Lidice in Caerus Time 131 Andrea Hanáčková 11 Historical Trauma as Comedy: Lewis Nordan’s Textual Representation of the Emmett Till Case 143 Marcel Arbeit 12 Nuns Having Fun: Popular Graphic Representations of a Historical Issue 159 Elizabeth A. Woock 13 The City to Come: On Architectural (Anti-)Communism 171 Martin Škabraha 14 Representation in Retrospect 183 Frank Ankersmit Authors 199 Index 203
Acknowledgments The editors of this volume would like to thank all of those who have participated in the project “Re-presenting the Past: New Methods of History Interpretation in Arts and the Media,” especially Veronika Klusáková, Tomáš Jirsa, and Petr Vlček for their dedicated work, as well as Jiří Lach, Dean of the Faculty of Arts of Palacký University Olomouc, and Jaroslav Miller, Rector of Palacký University Olomouc, for their generous support.
Marcel Arbeit and Ian Christie
Introduction: What We Talk about When We Talk about History ian christie “As it happens, the story of Archimedes is not exactly as the history books have portrayed it.” Karel Čapek, Apocryphal Tales1
The simple answer to the question posed by this monograph’s title is – as Jiří Lach observes in his chapter on audiences for history – everywhere. Despite claims that we live in a “presentist” era, when general knowledge of historical information is in decline, it is equally clear that ideas and beliefs about history form the bulk of social discourse in the modern world. From barroom arguments to TV quiz-show questions, not forgetting the ubiquitous lists that attempt to codify and quantify our experience, and the claims of politicians throughout the world about national traditions and capacities – history is indeed the matter of almost all our discourse. But is this real or true history? How much of it is distorted, partial, even mendacious? Debating such concerns is, of course, also a major part of what we call “history,” which, as Hayden White dramatically observed in the 1970s, is essentially “discourse.”2 Such debates have formed the substance of what has been called history from the earliest times. Revisionism, as it has come to be known in recent years – challenging prevailing interpretations of events and processes – increasingly seems not a new current in historical discourse but an intrinsic part of the enterprise. Does this mean that we are condemned to relativism, to a postmodern hall of mirrors in which all accounts have equal validity, or none, in which truth is a mere chimera, your truth versus my truth? These are questions that the Dutch philosopher of history, Frank Ankersmit, has long pondered. Ankersmit makes some important distinctions and refuses to gloss over the epistemological problems posed by distinguishing history as experience from its “truth”: [H]istorical experience gives us the emergence of the past as a category that can be analysed and, next, represented by historians. But, as such, it is neither an aesthetic phenomenon, nor can it be captured in terms of truth, whether aesthetic or not – not even in terms of historical truth.3
At this point in his survey of the recent trends in historiography, Ankersmit invokes what he calls the existentialist turn in history, which we might also call the experiential turn, and it is the many consequences of this shift from history as an apparently unproblem1 Karel Čapek, “The Death of Archimedes,” in Apocryphal Tales: With a Selection of Fables and Would-be Tales, trans. Norma Comrada (North Haven, CT: Catbird Press, 1997), 44. 2 See Hayden White, Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973); see also “Interpretation in History,” New Literary History 4, no. 2 (Winter 1973): 281–314. 3 See Frank Ankersmit, “Representation in Retrospect,” in this volume, 193.
atic narrative or summary of past events to the evocation of its presence in unexpected forms and media that have been the main theme of the project “Re-presenting the Past” at Palacký University Olomouc, Czech Republic, which gave birth to the present volume. Perhaps the most widely accepted re-definition of the scope of history today stems from Pierre Nora’s lieux de mémoire project (1984–1992), a multi-volume and multi-author series that undertook to chart the places and objects that defined French “national memory.”4 By adding these dimensions to a merely textual concept of history, Nora gave greater substance to a trend that was already apparent in many branches of history elsewhere. In Britain, for instance, the work of Raphael Samuel and of the History Workshop movement that he founded had already reached out to embrace a wide range of practices and phenomena, such as the appreciation of heritage as a popular pastime, which, Samuel argued, were manifestations of a historical sensibility at work among the population at large.5 Professional historians might consider much of this as amateur, but both Nora and Samuel effectively validated an expanded conception of the historical field as, in Ankersmit’s term, “experience.” Another narrower, though significant, trend in recent historiography has influenced the Olomouc project and, perhaps indirectly, some of the chapters in this volume. This can be traced back to the intervention by the American historian Robert Rosenstone in the 1990s into the relationship between film and history.6 Rosenstone argued in his two 1995 books that historical films should not be judged by the criteria of accuracy or adequacy, which they would clearly fail to meet as surely as most historical fiction. Defending most historical films against the usual objections that they are not sufficiently faithful to the agreed historical record, Rosenstone argued that imaginative and irreverent historical films could actually offer historians new perspectives on their topics. Other respected historians have also asserted that film could be more than a mere medium of popularisation, that it can also raise pertinent questions about what historians do, or do not do. Natalie Zemon Davis entered this debate with her work on the early modern case of Martin Guerre, a French sixteenth-century peasant who, after he left his family, was replaced by an impostor from a nearby village, who took his place as the husband of his wife for more than three years. Davis’s book The Return of Martin Guerre reversed the traditional order of priority, as it followed her serving as a historical advisor on Daniel Vigne’s 1982 film covering this case.7 4 Nora’s lieux could be translated literally as “places,” but has been rendered in English as “realms” to avoid seeming to be merely about topographic sites. See the series of translations issued under the title Rethinking France by the University of Chicago Press: Vol. 1: The State (2001); Vol. 2: Space (2006); Vol. 3: Legacies (2009); Vol. 4: Histories and Memories (2010). 5 See especially Raphael Samuel’s The Myths We Live By (London: Routledge, 1990) and his two Theatres of Memory volumes: Past and Present in Contemporary Culture (London: Verso, 1994) and Island Stories: Unravelling Britain (London: Verso, 1998). 6 See Robert A. Rosenstone, ed., Revisioning History: Film and the Construction of a New Past (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995); see also Robert A. Rosenstone, Visions of the Past: The Challenge of Film to Our Idea of History (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995). 7 See Natalie Zemon Davis, The Return of Martin Guerre (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983), following the film Le Retour de Martin Guerre, dir. Daniel Vigne (Dussault; France 3; Société Française de Production, 1982) based on Janet Lewis’s 1941 novel. On the other hand, Rosenstone’s role as advisor
The platform created by Rosenstone, Davis and others to argue for popular forms of narrativisation as constituents of a “new history” has continued to expand since the 1990s, and now embraces television fiction, as well as comics and computer games with a historical basis. The six chapters that make up the first part of this volume offer a range of innovative ways of considering how film, television, and radio can all offer their audiences historical insight in ways not otherwise available through conventional written texts. The common issue at stake is not how accurate or adequate they are as history, but rather identifying how they contribute to how history is experienced by a majority today; in ways that the past acquires “a wholly new and unknown directness and immediacy in its relationship to the present and to ourselves,” as Ankersmit puts it.8 The chapters that form the second part of the book pose a number of other challenges to textual veridicality, with oral history perhaps the most widely accepted as an essential tool for the history of the recent past. But even historical costume, the decorative arts, fantastic fictional treatment of real events, comic books, and the visual experience of a city skyline are all capable of generating new historical questions and offering potential answers. As case studies in the practice of the “new history,” it is hoped that they will encourage others to recognise that history has become a pluralistic and indeed popular activity. One of the authors, Daniel Pick, represented here by a dialogue with myself, demonstrates in the range of his work how the profession of history has expanded dramatically during recent years. Moving from his acclaimed account of how psychiatry and psychoanalysis were mobilised during World War II in The Pursuit of the Nazi Mind9 to his current project on the reality and mythology of brainwashing, he shows how Western European historians at least now operate in fields once unimaginable as history. Part of the aim of the “Re-presenting the Past” project was to bring members of staff from a number of departments within Palacký University into contact with scholars from other countries who work in areas and with methods that are not yet widely accepted in the Czech Republic, and equally to enable some of their work to reach a wider audience. This volume offers a composite snapshot of these encounters, bringing together chapters by members of the Olomouc team with contributions from their international and Czech guests, who delivered lectures and organised workshops at Palacký University between 2013 and 2015, or participated in the 2014 conference “Uses, Abuses, and Inventions: Where Is History Today?” The project and, consequently, the volume undoubtedly joins that international movement of historians, scholars, and lay enthusiasts who have expanded the boundaries of history to embrace almost everything that serves to locate us in space and time. In this context it seems fitting to recall that one of the early practitioners of “counterfacon Warren Beatty’s 1981 film Reds came after his published work on John Reed, the Harvard-educated journalist whose coverage of the 1917 Russian revolution became well-known through his book Ten Days that Shook the World (1919). See Robert A. Rosenstone, Romantic Revolutionary: A Biography of John Reed (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1975). 8 Ankersmit, “Representation in Retrospect,” in this volume, 194. 9 See Daniel Pick, The Pursuit of the Nazi Mind (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).
tual” historical fiction was Karel Čapek, the great Czech writer still little known outside his native land, who in his wonderful 1932 Apocryphal Tales rewrote familiar historical episodes for present-day purposes – a playful, yet also serious “re-use” of history.10
Bibliography Beatty, Warren, dir. Reds. Paramount, 1981. Comrada, Norma. Introduction to Apocryphal Tales: With a Selection of Fables and Would-be Tales. By Karel Čapek. North Haven, CT: Catbird Press, 1997. 7–9. Čapek, Karel. “The Death of Archimedes.” In Apocryphal Tales: With a Selection of Fables and Would-be Tales. Translated by Norma Comrada. North Haven, CT: Catbird Press, 1997. 44–46. Nora, Pierre, ed. Rethinking France, Vol. 1: The State. Translated by Mary Trouille. Translation directed by David P. Jordan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001. Nora, Pierre, ed. Rethinking France, Vol. 2: Space. Translation directed by David P. Jordan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. Nora, Pierre, ed. Rethinking France, Vol. 3: Legacies. Translation directed by David P. Jordan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009. Nora, Pierre, ed. Rethinking France, Vol. 4: Histories and Memories. Translation directed by David P. Jordan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010. Pick, Daniel. The Pursuit of the Nazi Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Rosenstone, Robert A., ed. Revisioning History: Film and the Construction of a New Past. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995. Rosenstone, Robert A. Romantic Revolutionary: A Biography of John Reed. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1975. Rosenstone, Robert A. Visions of the Past: The Challenge of Film to Our Idea of History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995. Samuel, Raphael. Island Stories: Unravelling Britain, Vol. 2, Theaters of Memory. London: Verso, 1998. Samuel, Raphael. The Myths We Live By. London: Routledge, 1990. Samuel, Raphael. Past and Present in Contemporary Culture. Vol. 1. Theaters of Memory. London: Verso, 1994. Vigne, Daniel, dir. Le Retour de Martin Guerre. Dussault; France 3; Société Française de Production, 1982. White, Hayden. “Interpretation in History.” New Literary History 4, no. 2 (Winter 1973): 281–314. White, Hayden. Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973.
10 See Norma Comrada’s introduction to her new translation and edition of Čapek’s Apocryphal Tales, 9.
1 Who and Where Are the Audiences for History Today?* Jiří Lach
Presenters: Amateurs vs. Professionals The analysis of an audience or audiences for historical interpretation, in the broadest sense of the term, should begin with a categorisation of those who are the authors of history and how they differ from past presenters of history. Historians themselves represent one of the most crucial groups of such authors since the professionalisation of history in the 19th century. However, the position of historians has been changing throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Today’s historians are largely unknown to the public, while icons of the historical profession in the 19th century, such as Thomas Babington Macaulay in England or the Czech František Palacký, enjoyed substantial respect and were listened to in many quarters of society. Educated people very often followed the major works of these historians, or at least their abridged versions, and, conversely, the historians strove to reach the widest possible readership; Macaulay, for example, “wanted the volumes of his deeply researched History of England on every bedside table . . .”1 Very frequently, their versions of history, often national history, were copied and reused. A classic case of this is Palacký’s conception of the 15th-century Hussite movement; both professional and amateur historians based their own interpretations of this famous medieval movement on Palacký’s works.2 However, the closer we get to the present, the more great historians (and even the concept of “a great historian” as such) have fallen from grace. In other words, audiences do not necessarily appreciate having history related to them by professionals any more. There are, no doubt, multiple reasons for this: professional historians increasingly fail to present their topics in forms people, including students of history, can understand. Academic historians frequently write only for colleagues or intellectuals in general and they often fail to offer a clear picture of the story, which is why engaging non-professional historical authors receive a much greater share of the audience’s attention and appreciation. There are several kinds of non-professional and amateur historians, though. Some deal with local history, often using the same methods as academics, and their contributions * This chapter originated from a conversation with Professor Ian Christie. I am deeply thankful to him for his thoughts, remarks, and inspiration. 1 David Moltke-Hansen, “The Changing Production and Consumption of Historical and Literary Texts: The View from the Simms Initiatives,” Historically Speaking 14 (Nov 2013): 22. He argues that historians in the nineteenth century aimed at having the largest possible audience, but also that they “largely surrendered the ambition” and focused instead on fellow-scholars in other disciplines, “helping build the knowledge base that in theory was transforming the way history’s readers understood the world” (22). 2 For a clear English summary of Palacký’s conception of history, with commentary, further reading, and an excerpt from Palacký, see František Palacký, “History of the Czech Nation in Bohemia and Moravia,” in Discourses of Collective Identity in Central and Southeast Europe (1770–1945): Texts and Commentaries, Vol. II, ed. Balázs Trencsényi and Michal Kopeček (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2007), 50–56.
to history may be extremely valuable, even though their scope is necessarily limited. Others, however, focus on incomplete, unverified, or biased accounts of an issue and may appear to offer clear and simplistic explanations. Unfortunately, these are frequently the most successful with the general public, who can digest their presentations of history more easily and do so with great appreciation. Nevertheless, there is no clear-cut distinction here. Television offers many examples of academic historians, experts in a specific field, responding to a professional presen ter and being forced to use comprehensible language that is very different from their scholarly vocabulary. On the other hand, in the same medium the charm of an amateur historical narrative may disguise itself in the robes of a professional film documentary, hiding factual errors or a lack of awareness of present-day historical scholarship. Scholars may flatly refuse to engage in the popularisation of history, but in doing so they only create a larger space for fabricators and amateurs. Respected scholars can challenge incompetent readings of the past by attempting to address audiences outside academia. They can use modern media and interactive approaches, although they do so quite rarely.3 However, there are exceptions to this rule. Renowned university historians such as Simon Schama, or before him A. J. P. Taylor,4 have achieved indisputable success on TV (and subsequently on the internet) and attracted wide attention. Both well-trained academics with respected lists of scholarly publications, they are also masters of the art of presentation, with effective diction and the ability to use their voice dramatically. Taylor and Schama mastered the rhetoric of the media, and the latter has even enhanced his accounts of the past with vivid exteriors and natural scenery.5 This may be the result of Schama’s own research on the historical perception of landscape,6 but other European nations seem to have produced skilful professional “broadcasting historians” as well.7
3 Len Deighton said in a documentary on A. J. P. Taylor on January 22, 1995: “Historians are boring people . . . and academic historians are monumentally boring and they become even more boring as their careers go on because their students are more or less forced to come to their lectures.” See Part 2 of “AJP Taylor – An Unusual Kind of Star.” Reputations, season 2, episode 2, produced by Martin Davidson, A&E Network/ BBC, aired Jan 22, 1995, BBC2, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnxI8YMD9BY. 4 When A. J. P. Taylor (1906–1990) began as a “broadcasting historian” the field was no longer new, but the provocative stance he took on a number of themes, such as the origin of the World Wars, attracted a lot of attention. Taylor appeared on the BBC regularly from no later than 1942, participated in numerous debates, and hosted independent shows on a number of modern history topics. See Kathleen Burk, Troublemaker: The Life and History of A. J. P. Taylor (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000), 376. 5 See, for example, the BBC’s A History of Britain by Simon Schama. 6 See Simon Schama, Landscape and Memory (London: Harper Collins, 1995). 7 Consider, for example, Georges Duby and his Le temps des cathédrales: L’art et la société 980–1420 (1976), in English The Age of the Cathedrals: Art and Society 980–1420, trans. Eleanor Levieux and Barbara Thompson (London: Croom Helm, 1981). Georges Duby (1919–1996) was a French medievalist linked to the “new historiography” of the Annales school of history. A documentary featuring Duby’s eloquent to-camera presentations was translated into a number of languages, including Spanish, Italian, and Czech. See Duby’s presentation style at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjxtGk2dgWo.
Who and Where Are the Audiences for History Today?
When Journalists Step In What changed in the 20th century was the growing role of journalists in interpreting the past. Academics consider reception of the past a demanding process, in which listeners must develop active participation if they want to understand a given historical problem. Journalists often do not anticipate any preliminary effort by the audience, and the vision of history they offer is rather simplistic in its nature, with history frequently serving only to frame a contemporary news story: current political problems are introduced with a short historical sketch. The past plays only a secondary role and stands in a subordinate position to the main agenda of contemporary events. As a result, many oversimplifications and false interpretations may occur. But such reporting has a definite impact, especially in the electronic media that currently hold the lead in the world of information, including information about the past. Continuing clashes between journalists dealing with history in the new electronic media and more traditional historians on radio and television and in film can be expected in the future. Journalism, as Ian Christie said, offers “a first draft of history”8 and what defines present-day journalistic reflections of the past is a limitless plurality of accounts. There are many drafts of history offered by journalists, against the few accounts from professional historians who manage to receive broader public attention. The so-called “old school” historians are lagging behind journalists in addressing the public with their accounts of history because many of them are not willing to accept fashionable methods of presentation and subsequently they are surprised by the scant attention they receive from a broader audience. What have they done wrong? The audience is ignorant about the values of scholarly craftsmanship, presented in scholarly books and articles in specialised peer-reviewed journals using advanced terminology. The community of professional historians should come down from its ivory tower and accept popularisation as an organic part of its mission. Tony Judt, the author of the widely praised Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 (2005), criticised the isolation of academic history, which is often hostile to colleagues producing publicly-oriented work, such as A. J. P. Taylor or, more recently, Eric Hobsbawm.9 Popularisation is, or at least should be, a natural part of the profession of a historian.10 It is an even more appealing task for historians today as the importance of history in school curricula is often being reduced. Not only can audio-visual media not be ignored any more; they are becoming more important carriers of historical knowledge than books or printed texts in general. His8 Ian Christie in conversation with Jiří Lach during the debate “Who and Where Are the Audiences for History Today?,” at the international conference Uses, Abuses, and Inventions: Where is History Today? (Palacký University Olomouc, March 13, 2014). 9 See Jiří Lach, “Tony Judt a jeho přístupy k soudobým dějinám” [Tony Judt and his approaches to present-day history] Český časopis historický 112, no. 1 (2014): 80. Eric Hobsbawm (1917–2012) was a British Marxist historian who served for a long time at Birkbeck College and was associated with the group of left-wing historians around the journal Past and Present. Hobsbawm, one of the bestselling history authors, focused on the economic and social developments of modern society and social groups , but his research interests also included, for example, jazz. For a personal account of his life and career see Eric Hobsbawm, Interesting Times: A Twentieth-Century Life (London: Abacus, 2002). 10 There are various intentions involved in popular accounts of history: for example, financial gain became a strong reason for A. J. P. Taylor’s appearances on television. See Burk, Troublemaker, 370.
torians who neglect the importance of interactive tools are by definition excluded from having a major public influence. The impact of audiovisual media is also becoming an issue, in connection with the question about how well humans absorb information from different media. Historians should reflect on medical, pedagogical, and neuro-linguistic research in order to comprehend how best to spread historical knowledge. The centrality of the written word or spoken word as used in lectures, which was dominant in earlier centuries, can no longer be assumed. Today, the dissemination of essential historical information or analysis requires brevity if a historian aims at gaining the attention of a broader audience. A picture of the past as a text message is no longer unimaginable. Some within the community of historians have recognised the importance of new ways of spreading knowledge about the past, but with the proviso that, in Arthur Marwick’s words, historical films and television programmes “should concentrate on those topics where visual evidence is genuinely of significance.”11 Such a limitation is now outdated.
Audience or Audiences? Professionals and Engaging Amateurs So who are the audiences for historians? The most natural and traditional audience is academics in general, that is, not only historians; they comprehend the importance of discovering and re-discovering the past. Another important aspect is that history is a relatively accessible field. Not many people are able to discuss chemistry or biology, but nearly everyone, regardless of their profession, is willing to debate historical topics and has opinions about the past. Researchers from different fields, from the natural to the medical sciences, often have an informed view of historical topics and are literate in different aspects of history. On the other hand, professional historians became an increasingly bad audience for the results of their own research, as specialisations that have developed since the 19th century brought about ignorance of neighbouring fields, which prevents colleagues from dealing knowledgably with different epochs, or branches of historical scholarship from understanding one another. It is then extremely difficult, even though not utterly impossible, for an amateur to grasp new findings or interpretations that are not easily accessible even to professionals with an identical or similar schooling. One field that is open to amateurs is the commemorations of great historical events. They have a long history; Peter Burke dates them back to ancient Egypt.12 Many amateur historians’ passion for a chosen historical topic or period brings them as close to their heroes among historical figures as possible. Fans of military history often sacrifice their own time and money to indulge their passion for military display or historical battle gatherings, as in the re-enactment of the Battle of Austerlitz (1805) that takes place every December. Military history enthusiasts are organised into associations and travel around 11 Arthur Marwick, The New Nature of History: Knowledge, Evidence, Language (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001), 235. 12 Peter Burke, “Co-memorations: Performing the Past,” in Performing the Past: Memory, History and Identity in Modern Europe, ed. Karin Tilmans, Frank van Vree, and Jay Winter (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2010), 107. Burke claims a long history of commemorations, while centennials represent a phenomenon quite rare before the 17th century.
Who and Where Are the Audiences for History Today?
the continent to remind themselves and others of milestones of the Napoleonic Wars, while bicentennial anniversaries bring even greater displays. These enthusiasts undertake serious research in order to establish the authenticity of armour and weaponry for re-enactments and they often achieve a significant level of detailed knowledge, despite the methodological dead end they inhabit,13 knowledge that frequently surpasses what academics who are confined to spoken or written discourse on a topic may know, and they possess greater physical knowledge of places that academics have only written about. This situation may change, however, as professional historians aspire to offer a more popular image of their subject; in a way, the enthusiasm of amateur historians has inspired them. Participation in historical re-enactments supports the enlargement of history’s audiences, as microhistories which deal with the histories of objects, places, and deceased neighbours have a clear impact on the audience and its attachment to history. In this vein, the BBC devised an extremely popular television programme, Antiques Roadshow, in which people bring objects they own and show them to experts who attempt to put the little story of each into a broader historical context.14
Personalised History The BBC is a flagship of history broadcasting throughout the world, with a large audience following its programmes, but history on television and in the new electronic media is on the rise everywhere. A part of this success is an inclusive style of programme-making. History broadcasts for schools do not have to be confined to a soul-destroying recitation of dates and figures. History can gain much more attention from students if they can participate directly in organising their educational framework. A project entitled Zmizelí sousedé (Lost neighbours) that was implemented at some grammar schools in the Czech Republic is an instructive example. Students are involved in attempting to reconstruct the history of Jewish or German settlements in their neighbourhood by performing independent research, speaking to living contemporaries or even going through primary archival resources. They discover how major changes took place in the 20th century and to what extent the current shape of the Czech society and landscape became different from what was there before World War II. Not everyone has a passion for the past. But if local, family, or personal histories, that is, personalising aspects of the past, are involved, even people who do not consider general knowledge of historical developments important often express interest. Family trees and family histories provide a good example; their research has been greatly accelerated by the coming of the internet age. There are now endless resources available, accessible to both amateurs and professionals. It is not easy to measure which method inspires popular study of the past most, although microhistory continues to have some 13 The vast majority of amateur historians do not accompany their publications with methodological chapters; they focus on detailed descriptions and restrict their research to bringing new details on a given topic. 14 Currently, the programme has reached its 37th series. See Antiques Roadshow, BBC One, 1979–2015, http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006mj2y.
appeal in terms of focusing on singular and localised issues. But here again professionals differ from amateurs. Giovanni Levi, paraphrasing what Clifford Geertz said about anthropologists,15 claims: “Historians do not study villages . . . they study in villages.”16 Amateurs do study villages or neighbours, but they do not aim at using such particulars to demonstrate general phenomena, as the famous works of professionals in microhistorical research did.17 The internet plays a very positive role in spreading interest in history. It provides the largest available archive of materials for discovering the past and it is a great tool for everyone researching it, even though it actually reduces and complicates orientation for all non-professionals. Amateur designers of the past prevail over professionals in using the internet, because, as Mark Grimsley aptly noted, “academics are reluctant to leave the age of Gutenberg.”18 The value of the internet is not solely as a stock of resources, but even more so as a communication tool. However, even in this sphere “a good many academics have never delved into social media at all.”19 Social media represent the most dynamic agent of communication today and they are a powerful disseminator of personal stories and histories. To avoid them necessarily leads to neglecting an important aspect of today’s perception of the past. Henceforth, the essential question is not whether to reflect history in/through the internet and social media, but how to do so. Frequently, people absorb the past through their own experience and memories. The feeling of personal cognisance of history has already been studied in great detail through oral history. Oral history, in partnership with other fields and methods, reduces the pitfalls of personal testimony: the self-projection, the lack of confrontation with other witnesses or types of evidence, the fading of human memory, and the like.20 The use of the internet and social media in the study of history will bring even greater demand for the control of personal outlook. Some very successful presenters of history, such as A. J. P. Taylor, had or have great reservations about the use of personal testimony.21 People’s absorption of the past usually comes through assurances such as “I know the history,” “I remember that,” or “I have a memory of something.” Such convictions create 15 Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays (New York: Basic Books, 1973), 22. 16 Giovanni Levi, “On Microhistory,” in New Perspectives on Historical Writing, ed. Peter Burke (1991; Cambridge: Polity, 2001), 100. 17 For example, Carlo Ginzburg in his 1976 classic The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a SixteenthCentury Miller, trans. John Tedeschi and Anne Tedeschi (1976; Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980). Ginzburg used inquisition minutes on a North Italian miller called Menocchio (Domenico Scandella) to illustrate the religious imagination of a 16th-century man in a great detail. Ginsburg’s art of microhistorical analysis was broadly acknowledged, but received a certain amount of criticism for being too speculative as well. 18 Mark Grimsley, “Prejudice against Popular History: The Costs and Benefits of Holding the Course,” Historically Speaking 13, no. 5 (2012): 10. 19 Mark Grimsley, “Prejudice against Popular History,” 10. 20 On the formation and problems of oral history as a field see Gwyn Prins, “Oral History,” in New Perspectives on Historical Writing, 120–56. 21 For the quote from Taylor see Chris Wrigley, A. J. P. Taylor: Radical Historian of Europe (London: I. B. Tauris, 2006), 265. Taylor wrote: “If statesmen could be persuaded to record their acts and motives the same evening, there would be some use in it. Similarly diaries, when not rewritten, are useful. But old men drooling about their youth – No!”
Who and Where Are the Audiences for History Today?
an individual historical consciousness. But these personalised impressions about the past can be mistaken or misleading, and works that are solely based on them are very vulnerable to fatal errors. For example, the research on the Holocaust has illustrated this issue perfectly for decades. What witnesses, regardless of whether they were victims, culprits, or more or less distant observers, remembered about the extermination of the Jews oscillates from historical reality to deliberate or unintentional falsifications. The late Tony Judt pointed out in his autobiographical sketches that his Jewish mother, living through the war in London, based her image of the Holocaust on a documentary film shot by British troops in the Nazi concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen in Lower Saxony shortly after the liberation of the camp. Thus, for her the Holocaust was localised in a Nazi facility that initially served as a prisoner of war camp.22 But even real places of Holocaust memory such as Auschwitz could take on a dis torted image. Auschwitz is generally considered as the primary symbol of the Holocaust, and this is not just an impression of the general audience, but an interpretation supported by the academic history of World War II for decades. Collective commemorations associated with this place of horror since 1945 nevertheless demonstrate the difficulty of remembering historical events. According to Timothy Snyder, when Soviet soldiers walked in, they did not know they were liberating Auschwitz, as despite the terrible conditions in the concentration camp most of the inmates appeared to contradict the images of starvation zones, shooting pits, or death facilities: “The camps are not even a prelude of killing. The vast majority of people who were killed never saw a camp. The vast majority of Jews who were killed never saw a camp.”23 These examples show the limits of personal testimonies, when the amount of evidence (in the form of survivors’ narratives) promotes the importance of an event above other similar, or even worse occurrences, in this case, for example, in the Ukrainian Babi Yar, where only a handful of people survived the shooting of over thirty-three thousand Jews from nearby Kiev.
Authors? Known! Audience? Not Really! There is only limited knowledge available on the structure and size of audiences in the modern era. And it is on the verge of impossibility (though worth trying) to analyse how an audience perceives a message about history. However, a lesson can perhaps be learned from the fields of medieval or early modern history, which study readers (and recipients of intellectual works in general) in great detail. The whole topic of audiences for history balances on the edge of speculation, but brings together a number of exciting research perspectives as well. First and foremost, the impact of history on audiences needs to be 22 T ony Judt and Timothy Snyder, Thinking the Twentieth Century (New York: Penguin, 2012), For a great collection of Holocaust survivors’ testimonies see Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, http://www.library.yale.edu/testimonies/index.html. See also Michael Rothberg, “After the Witness: A Report from the Twentieth Anniversary Conference of the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale,” History and Memory 15, no. 1 (2003): 85–96. 23 Timothy Snyder, The Origins of Mass Killing: The Bloodlands Hypothesis, London School of Economics and Political Science, Jan 22, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXrqGlgufCA, 26:33–26:44.
studied in order to evaluate the impact of historical works. There is a relatively good base, including statistical data, for assessing the quantity of historical book buyers, history broadcasting listeners, and the number of history students since the end of the 19th century. For example, Czechoslovakia had a rapidly growing radio audience from the start of national broadcasting in 1923 and the number of listeners reached over one million radio station subscribers in 1937.24 This figure, together with the fact that a one-hour history lecture occupied a fixed position in the main evening programme schedule,25 provides a reliable estimate of the history audience’s size. It is possible to frame a hypothesis that history programmes on radio in countries with a more developed broadcasting culture could have reached a larger audience at certain times than history books. Across Europe, if key national or world history outlines and compendiums in print during the 19th and early 20th centuries sold up to two thousand copies, often by subscription, they were considered a success.26 Publishers had to come up with multiple editions, including abridged and adapted versions, if they wanted to increase their readership. Only a few historical projects succeeded in reaching sales of hundreds of thousands or even millions.27 In contrast, however, there is only minimal knowledge of how listeners, readers, or viewers have perceived such works. The study of audiences should be an integral part of understanding historians, authors, and presenters in general. Audiences’ reactions would reveal a lot about the presenters. Scholars who retire from academic positions and lay down their pens often disappear from public recognition very quickly, as the audience forgets them. Yet, as the cases of Taylor and Hobsbawm prove, retirement from academe, to use the words of Peter J. Beck, “does not necessarily prevent historians making substantial contributions as presenters, through media work and publications drawing upon a lifetime’s scholarship and wisdom.“28 Very often history reaches an audience through its attachment to the present day. In other words, public interest grows when a historical topic has a link with the current political or social situation. How such a connection functions, and how important and instrumental media coverage is, can be demonstrated through Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (1996), a very provocative book by Daniel J. Goldhagen, a young professor at Harvard and the son of a Holocaust survivor, that opened up a heated debate in Germany and in the U.S. in the 1990s,29 marked a new era in German 24 See Petr Szcepanik, Konzervy se slovy: Počátky zvukového filmu a česká mediální kultura 30. let [Cans with words: The beginnings of sound film and Czech media culture in the 1930s] (Brno: Host, 2009), 403. 25 See Josef Maršík, “Průkopníci rozhlasového vysílání” [Pioneers of radio broadcasting], in Od mikrofonu k posluchačům: Z osmi desetiletí českého rozhlasu [From microphone to listeners: Eight decades of Czech radio broadcasting], ed. Eva Ješutová (Praha: Český rozhlas, 2004), 44. 26 See Jo Tollebeek, “Exegi Monumentum: The Great Syntheses of National History,” in Setting the Standards: Institutions, Networks and Communities of National Historiography, ed. Ilaria Porciani and Jo Tollebeek (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 117–19. Tollebeek lists crucial Western European projects (from Spain, Germany, Great Britain, Denmark, and France). A similar situation took place in Eastern and Central Europe. For the Czechoslovak situation see Jiří Lach, Josef Šusta 1874–1945: A History of a Life – A Life in History (Olomouc: Vydavatelství Univerzity Palackého, 2003), 46–50. 27 See Jo Tollebeek, “Exegi Monumentum,” 119. 28 Peter J. Beck, Presenting History: Past and Present (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 299. 29 Jiří Pešek “Goldhagenovská debata v Německu let 1996–1998” [The Goldhagen debate in
Who and Where Are the Audiences for History Today?
historical and political culture, and broadened the audience for histories of the Holocaust in Germany and elsewhere.30 Goldhagen attracted academic, media, and general public attention by claiming that foreign helpers were not essential in carrying out the Holocaust and that Germans represented the key perpetrators,31 arguing that German society as a whole was responsible for the massacre of the Jews. A significant reason for the public audience attention in the Goldhagen debate was the fact that it affected the ancestors of both victims and culprits. The concept of the societal responsibility for the atrocities raised an intensive debate about the Holocaust that reached other countries as well. In Italy, the myth of the Jews being protected by the mild nature of Mussolini’s regime and with the help of the Resistance was significantly challenged in the 1990s.32 The new era in debating the wartime past, with its echoes among the population at large, was caused by the changed political situation after the end of the Cold War. This applied to France as well, where the 1990s debate became a painful public issue when research revealed the proportion of Frenchmen who voluntarily assisted in the extermination of the Jews. The controversy of the topic in France was increased by anti-Semitic excesses and the rise of the National Front.33 But links between current politics and the past, and their reflections in historical consciousness, are not confined to Western Europe; audiences are confronted with the political utilisation of history everywhere.
The Heritage of Communism and the Audiences Approaching National(ist) History Post-Communist Europe deals with a kind of liberation history that is obviously connected with shaking off Communism, but the accents in this issue differ from country to country. The question is what will replace Communism (and the Cold War, which is also a problem for Western Europe). Despite the project of closer European integration, nationalism seems to be the answer everywhere in Europe. Many local historiographies still retain (or recreate) a strong dimension of awakening national ideology. This is clearly visible in the case of the Baltic States, which (re-) emerged from the ashes of the Soviet Union. Professional historians there have admitted a political dimension to their work, which is supposed to serve national greatness.34 NaGermany 1996–1998], in Setkávání s Klio: Studie z dějin dějepisectví [Meeting Clio: Studies in the history of historiography] (Praha: Academia, 2014), 359. 30 See Daniel J. Goldhagen, Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and Holocaust (New York: Alfred J. Knopf, 1996). For the overview of the debate in the U.S. and Germany with links to key texts, see Goldhagen’s web pages, http://goldhagen.com/the-goldhagen-debate. 31 Richard J. Evans, Altered Past: Counterfactuals in History (Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press, 2013), 117. 32 Rebecca Clifford, Commemorating the Holocaust: The Dilemmas of Remembrance in France and Italy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 83. 33 For example, the desecration of Jewish tombs in the French town of Carpentras. See Rebecca Clifford, Commemorating the Holocaust, 110–11. 34 See Jörg Hackmann, “Narrating the Building of a Small Nation: Divergence and Convergence in the Historiography of Estonian ‘National Awakening,’ 1868–2005,” in Nationalizing the Past: Historians as Nation Builders in Modern Europe, ed. Stefan Berger and Chris Lorenz (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 190–91.
tional historical narratives have survived or re-emerged throughout Europe and globally in the world and they still play an important part in political argumentations. Benedict Anderson, in the third edition of his highly praised Imagined Communities (2006, the original edition in 1983), points out that three power institutions in particular played an essential role in how colonial powers imagined their dominion: the census, the map, and the museum.35 But these are applicable not only in South-East Asia, which Anderson discusses, but in Europe as well. The census and the map have frequently been used and abused in justification of contemporary political action and were particularly instrumental in the wars of the 1990s in the former Yugoslavia. The public audience there was permanently exposed to different historical constructions of Balkan history. Both amateur and professional interpreters of the past played a very creative game with the historic settlement of this region and its ethnic composition. As noted by Stefan Berger, another factor contributing to the re-nationalisation of historical narratives since the 1990s is the European Union; its enlargement and strengthening have provoked r e-definitions of national pasts.36 The public as audience is exposed to different styles in contemporary political promotion of the past, especially in post-1989 Europe. Different stages in this process can be identified, but they overlap in time. First, as Beverly James wrote, “old definitions of the past had to be at least repressed and new narratives had to be written.”37 In other words, different textual, visual, and media tools were used to reject and redefine the Communist heritage, mostly in a negative sense. Anderson’s “mighty museums”38 have been used for that purpose all around Eastern and Central Europe with very variable results, ranging from the respectable to the obscure.39 While in some countries a virulent anti-Communism has remained latent and continues to fuel nationalist ideologies today, elsewhere it had to compete with nostalgia for the quiet and stable waters of Communism in the fading memories of those who lived under that regime. These phenomena collide in most countries, since different people hold different views of the past and the present. Still, in some countries one of these approaches to the Communist past prevails; for example, Hungary is a good example of the former, and the former East Germany, with its “Ostalgie,” that is, nostalgia for the lifestyle before 1989, of the latter. However, the extreme right in Hungary (Jobbik and other groups) is not only using radical anti-Communist language, but has also dusted off the verbal and iconographic symbols of the World War II fascist, anti-Semitic Arrow Cross organisation. An anti-Communist depiction of 35 See Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism, rev. ed. (London: Verso, 2006), 163–64. 36 Stefan Berger, “The Power of National Pasts: Writing National History in Nineteenth- and TwentiethCentury Europe,” in Writing the Nation: A Global Perspective, ed. Stefan Berger (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 56. 37 Beverly James, “Fencing In the Past: Budapest’s Statue Park Museum,” Media, Culture and Society 21 (1999): 296. 38 Anderson, Imagined Communities, 163–64. 39 Museums as institutions presenting history are on the rise worldwide. See Ilaria Porciani, “The Changing Landscape of History Museums,” in Atlas of European Historiography: The Making of a Profession 1800–2005, ed. Ilaria Porciani and Lutz Raphael (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 60.
Who and Where Are the Audiences for History Today?
the past will probably continue to play a political role for some time, mostly in countries where Communism was predominantly shaped by Soviet (Russian) imperialism, especially in the Baltic area, Ukraine, and Poland. This is nevertheless only a part of the story. “Ostalgie” at first created a mixed image of everyday life in East Germany, divided between idealising and making fun of it.40 Nostalgia about the quiet 1970s and 1980s can be found in other countries and in their cinematographies as well.41 It often conveys a melancholic image of Communism, and the well-documented massive disagreement with the Communist leadership in the 1980s is largely ignored. But neither does the presentation of a Soviet-style political system as purely oppressive correspond with reality. As Martin Sabrow has demonstrated for the German Democratic Republic, and as can be applied to other Communist countries as well, the East German rule was based on the twofold strategy of custodianship and control. A reduction of the Communist state to a merely coercive entity, where the population approves none of the government’s measures, is simply ahistorical. The Communist system in East Germany, like all totali tarian systems in the 20th century, was a “participatory dictatorship,” to some extent based on popular support.42 This view naturally reflects a present-day interpretation of the Communist past by many inhabitants of the region.
Conclusion In this chapter, I have attempted to argue the following: 1. history today is less a realm solely for professional historians with an academic background than is thought by the scholars themselves. Academics frequently lag behind amateurs in addressing history’s audiences; 2. traditional means of spreading knowledge about the past face significant competition and challenges from new types of presenters, media, and narrative forms; 3. the study of audiences is an essential component of any historical research; 4. the search for an impartial picture of the previous historical development is an organic part of scholarly efforts, but this does not mean it is a common perception of history for the audiences in today’s societies. Since the beginning of its professionalisation in the 19th century, history as an academic discipline has spent a significant amount of energy and time in reassuring itself about its dominance and supremacy in interpreting the past. The number of professional historians rose significantly throughout the 20th and 21st centuries,43 but the number 40 The most notorious example of what became a specific subgenre is Wolfgang Becker’s film Good Bye Lenin! (X-Filme Creative Pool, 2003). 41 Czech cinematography brought a number of films or TV series relativising the last decades of communism. See, for example, the TV series Vyprávěj [Tell us a story] (Czech Television, 2009–2013). 42 Martin Sabrow, “Socialismus jako myšlenkový svět: Komunistická diktatura v kulturněhistorické perspektivě” [Socialism as a mental world: Communist dictatorship in cultural-historical perspective], Soudobé dějiny 19, no. 2 (2012): 198–99. 43 In 1928, the total number of academic historians in Europe was 1,335 and it rose to 19,681 in 2005. See Mary O’Dowd, “Popular Writers: Woman Historians, the Academic Community and National History Writing,” in Setting the Standards: Institutions, Networks and Communities of National Historiography, ed. Ilaria Porciani and Jo Tollebeek, 355.
of non-academic history presenters is uncountable. Although some professionals, such as Taylor and Schama, have attempted to address non-academic viewers, the scholarly interpretation of the past is increasingly challenged or even rejected by amateurs. Even though some of them may be dilettantes, amateurs excite audiences through unconventional means of presenting, their enthusiasm, or the attractive ways in which they build upon certain historical topics. Many even do not hesitate to attempt to create a “live” history through the re-enactment of historical events. There is an ever-growing plurality of informational tools, which has an inevitable impact on both the presenters and the audiences of history. While most of the 19th century knew only the printed text or the spoken word heard in isolated gatherings at school, or in learned societies, since the late 19th century there has been an ongoing revolution in communications – from the development of photography and the spread of record players, through radio and television broadcasting, to the internet. As technological advances have reshaped the whole world, they have also affected historical research and the transmission of knowledge (or fabrications) about history. The plurality of historical presenters and the institutional diversity in the presentation of history become ever greater the closer we get to the present. The internet constantly multiplies historical narratives and reshapes them into new formats. Audiences should become an object of serious historical research; otherwise, a number of questions will remain unanswered. Tracing audiences brings about a number of challenges, but it also opens up new perspectives in understanding even notoriously well-researched phenomena, such as World War II, the Holocaust, or Communist pasts, in all their possible aspects, from the political to the cultural ones. A better comprehension of audiences can bring historians closer to an understanding of why one historical event can lead to such divergent interpretations at different times and places. Historical scholarship discovers new evidence about the development of humankind every day. Though patience is required when waiting for new evidence, there is a plethora of resources on all crucial topics. But contemporary historians no longer assume they are the masters of historical interpretation. The past and its interpretation are in the hands of many: from amateur historians, through political regimes and parties, to charlatans. Historians can nevertheless be a compass that helps citizens safely navigate through scenarios of the past that could possibly have happened.
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Who and Where Are the Audiences for History Today? Burk, Kathleen. Troublemaker: The Life and History of A. J. P. Taylor. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000. Burke, Peter. “Co-memorations: Performing the Past.” In Performing the Past: Memory, History, and Identity in Modern Europe, edited by Karin Tilmans, Frank van Vree, and Jay Winter. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2010. 105–18. Clifford, Rebecca. Commemorating the Holocaust: The Dilemmas of Remembrance in France and Italy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Duby, Georges. The Age of the Cathedrals: Art and Society 980–1420. Translated by Eleanor Levieux and Barbara Thompson. London: Croom Helm, 1981. Evans, Richard J. Altered Past: Counterfactuals in History. Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press, 2013. Geertz, Clifford. The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays. New York: Basic Books, 1973. Ginzburg, Carlo. The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller. Translated by John Tedeschi and Anne Tedeschi. 1976. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980. Goldhagen, Daniel J. Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. New York: Alfred J. Knopf, 1996. Grimsley, Mark. “Prejudice against Popular History: The Costs and Benefits of Holding the Course.” Historically Speaking 13, no. 5 (2012): 9–11. Hackmann, Jörg. “Narrating the Building of a Small Nation: Divergence and Convergence in the Historiography of Estonian ‘National Awakening,’ 1868–2005.” In Nationalizing the Past: Historians as Nation Builders in Modern Europe, edited by Stefan Berger and Chris Lorenz. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. 170–91. Hobsbawm, Eric. Interesting Times: A Twentieth-Century Life. London: Abacus, 2002. James, Beverly. “Fencing In the Past: Budapest’s Statue Park Museum.” Media, Culture and Society 21 (1999): 291–311. Judt, Tony, and Timothy Snyder. Thinking the Twentieth Century. New York: Penguin, 2012. Lach, Jiří. Josef Šusta 1874–1945: A History of a Life – A Life in History. Olomouc: Vydavatelství Univerzity Palackého, 2003. Lach, Jiří. “Tony Judt a jeho přístupy k soudobým dějinám.” Český časopis historický 112, no. 1 (2014): 70–84. Levi, Giovanni. “On Microhistory.” In New Perspectives on Historical Writing, edited by Peter Burke. 1991. Cambridge: Polity, 2001. 97–119. Maršík, Josef. “Průkopníci rozhlasového vysílání.” In Od mikrofonu k posluchačů: Z osmi desetiletí českého rozhlasu, edited by Eva Ješutová. Praha: Český rozhlas, 2004. 14–53. Marwick, Arthur. The New Nature of History: Knowledge, Evidence, Language. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001. Moltke-Hansen, David. “The Changing Production and Consumption of Historical and Literary Texts: The View from the Simms Initiatives.” Historically Speaking 14, no. 5 (2013): 22–26. O’Dowd, Mary. “Popular Writers: Woman Historians, the Academic Community and National History Writing.” In Setting the Standards: Institutions, Networks and Communities of National Historiography, edited by Ilaria Porciani and Jo Tollebeek. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. 351–71. Palacký, František. “History of the Czech Nation in Bohemia and Moravia.” Translated by Derek Paton. In National Romanticism: The Formation of National Movements, edited by Balázs Trencsényi and Michal Kopeček. Vol. 2 of Discourses of Collective Identity in Central and Southeast Europe (1770–1945): Texts and Commentaries. Budapest: Central European University Press, 2007. 50–56.
Pešek, Jiří. “Goldhagenovská debata v Německu let 1996–1998.” In Setkávání s Klio: Studie z dějin dějepisectví. Praha: Academia, 2014. 314–59. Porciani, Ilaria, and Lutz Rafael, eds. Atlas of European Historiography: The Making of a Profession, 1800–2005. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. Porciani, Ilaria, and Jo Tollebeek, eds. Setting the Standards: Institutions, Networks and Communities of National Historiography. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Prins, Gwyn. “Oral History.” In New Perspectives on Historical Writing, edited by Peter Burke. 1991. Cambridge: Polity, 2001. 120–56. Rothberg, Michael. “After the Witness: A Report from the Twentieth Anniversary Conference of the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale.” History and Memory 15, no. 1 (2003): 85–96. Sabrow, Martin. “Socialismus jako myšlenkový svět: Komunistická diktatura v kulturněhistorické perspektivě.” Soudobé dějiny 19, no. 2 (2012): 196–208. Schama, Simon. Landscape and Memory. London: HarperCollins, 1995. Snyder, Timothy. “The Origins of Mass Killing: The Bloodlands Hypothesis.” London School of Economics and Political Science, Jan 22, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=fXrqGlgufCA. Szcepanik, Petr. Konzervy se slovy: Počátky zvukového filmu a česká mediální kultura 30. let. Brno: Host, 2009. Tollebeek, Jo. “Exegi Monumentum: The Great Syntheses of National History.” In Setting the Standards: Institutions, Networks and Communities of National Historiography, edited by Ilaria Porciani and Jo Tollebeek. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. 105–28. Wrigley, Chris. A. J. P. Taylor: Radical Historian of Europe. London: I. B. Tauris, 2006.
2 Women Making History: Gleaning and the Compilation Film Laura Mulvey It is now a received idea that how events are selected, and how they are written, in form and content, as “history,” is affected by ideology and politics. By and large, women have played little part in the events resulting from “the deeds of men,” their cultures, and their conflicts; nor have women had much investment in the acquisitive drives, the struggles for power and eruptions into violence that make up the quotidian and its dramas. Utopian dreams of a better and more equal and peaceful world that lie behind progressive politics might have a greater appeal to women, but these dreams are often overtaken once again by “the deeds of men.” Both the form and the content of this traditional history have by now been challenged from multiple points of view, and certainly not only by women. But women have a particular consciousness of their collective irrelevance to traditional accounts of history, as well as their collective absence from its construction. Feminism inspired an attempt to write, in Sheila Rowbotham’s term, “the hidden from history,” that is, neglected, marginal areas of female life and experiences of oppression and suffering traditionally deemed unworthy of formal recording.1 Oral history has by no means been exclusive to women, although it is a favoured feminist methodology, documenting and narrating the past through interviews, but also constructing the past out of memories, letters, diaries, and other artefacts. Material collected in this way leaves its trace on the process of narration. For a feminist idea of alternative forms of history it is important how content is organised in this form of writing, how it inscribes the process of collecting its raw material. Out of these necessarily informal sources, a picture of the past can emerge in which women’s lives are central rather than marginal and in which, in the absence of public events usually associated with politics, women’s everyday struggles challenge given boundaries. For instance, even the private world of home, motherhood, and family is politicised. Feminist historians have tended to use these documents as an integral part of their alternative narratives, maintaining a balance between women’s voices and the integration of these testimonies into a political discourse that gives weight and significance to experiences hitherto overlooked and silenced. As a result, these texts tend to be made up of fragments, presenting the material heterogeneously. There are certain similarities between this collecting process and the compilation film, a form of cinematic and historical narration based on the accumulation and organi sation of raw material.2 The “found footage” and the gradual extraction of a story from this raw material are intertwined together: although the original bits of film are reorganised into something new, they are necessarily still rooted in the past moment when they 1 See Sheila Rowbotham, Hidden from History: 300 Years of Women’s Oppression and the Fight against It (London: Pluto Press, 1973). 2 On the early history of the compilation film, see Jay Leyda, Films Beget Films: A Study of the Compilation Film (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1964).
were recorded. Once again, as in oral history, traces of past experience survive and are very often integrated into new political modes of understanding. In this chapter, I take as my text a film that is both a work of compilation and a work of feminist history, Alina Marazzi’s Un’ora sola ti vorrei (To Have Just an Hour with You, 2002), to reflect on these aesthetic and political questions. In fact, the film’s subject matter brings it directly into dialogue with issues at the heart of feminist history as it reclaims silences and informal cultures, that is to say, the dilemmas, difficulties, and pain that women so frequently encounter in their family relations, and particularly those associated with motherhood.3
Some Background to the Compilation Film In compilation films, images from the past are arranged into new patterns, producing new ideas and arguments. This process involves a layering of time: its later reorganisation is laid, as it were, onto or over the found footage’s past as in a palimpsest. While the editor extracts new meanings from the raw material, those bits of film continue to assert their materiality and bear witness to celluloid’s precious ability to capture and preserve whatever happened in front of the lens. This remains the case even in the most conventional of compiled documentaries, but the layering of time and the visibility of film’s materiality have a more radical potential. Both feminist film theory and experimental filmmaking have always persistently worked to deconstruct linear time, which also means to deconstruct cause-and-effect narratives in fiction or a chronological and event-driven concept of history. This aspiration, which may involve many varying formal strategies within the avant-garde, is intrinsic to the compilation form. Alongside temporal complexity and the informality and incompleteness of assemblage, heterogeneity is built into found footage film as a result of the discordance, or even tension, between, on the one hand, residual intractability of the raw material and its comparative lack of cultural and cinematic value, and, on the other hand, the new film’s aesthetic principles and its political message, both of which are produced by the editor’s particular creative principles and ideological point of view.
Détournement and Gleaning Although collecting pre-existing materials, collage, and compilation have a long history stretching back into the cinema’s distant past and are far from being primarily a women’s domain, the practice, which is specifically one of montage, is a reminder that editing has been one of the few professional skills in filmmaking in which women have traditionally had a place. It is no surprise that some of the key influential compilation filmmakers have been women. The formal founding political moment of compilation films – although, in fact, films had been “compiled,” particularly as pseudo-newsreels, from the earliest 3 Alina Marazzi, dir. Un’ora sola ti vorrei (Venerdì; Bartlebyfilm, 2002). For a very thoughtful and beautiful analysis of the film, see Chapter 3 in Emma Wilson, Love, Mortality and the Moving Image (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 63–78.
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days of cinema – reaches back to Esfir Shub’s Padenie dinastii Romanovykh (The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty, 1927).4 Shub excavated pre-revolutionary film archives to compile a document of life under the Tsars, using their own material to expose dialectically the oppression and exploitation of the Tsarist regime. In post-World War II France, Nicole Védrès made a further crucial contribution to the genre with Paris 1900 (1947), a critique of life, culture, and politics during La Belle Epoque.5 This self-conscious transformation of an original meaning, torn out of its historical origin to be reconfigured within another political and ideological context, has an affinity with the Situationist practice of détournement.6 The idea of “gleaning,” which I have appropriated from Agnès Varda’s film Les glaneurs et la glaneuse (The Gleaners and I, 2000), suggests an aesthetic link between the feminist historical process and that of the compilation film.7 The advantage of the term is that it gives a cultural lineage to the process of collecting, accumulating, sifting through, and recycling pre-existing materials. Gleaning offers a trope for women’s cultural marginality and the informal anecdotal nature of their traditional cultural practices. Varda begins her film by pointing out that, in the old days, only women gleaned, or collected grain left behind by the usually male reapers, a custom recorded in famous paintings by Jules Breton and Jean-François Millet.8 In her film, however, both men and women are shown gleaning, after the revival of the practice as a result of the industrialisation of agriculture and the amount of vegetables discarded for being of non-standard size or shape. Gleaning easily takes on metaphoric significances. Its relation to the discarded part of the harvest, as opposed to the produce that has value and will circulate properly in the market, leads to the marginal within culture and then (in a metonymic chain of association) to the valueless things of women’s culture, things collected, saved, and invested with value of a personal or emotional kind. Furthermore, the process of gleaning, and the effort associated with it, provide a metaphor for the search for information, with further connotations of scarcity of material and the difficulty of finding it. These two strategies, détournement and gleaning, resonate with feminist history. Both re-use pre-existing objects, texts, or material of any kind for something new, and their aesthetic strategies inscribe a “double temporality” as the raw material is preserved in its new usage.9 One, détournement, is derived from a critique of the past; the other, gleaning, 4 Esfir Shub, dir. Padenie dinastii Romanovykh (Moscow: Sovkino, 1927). 5 Nicole Védrès, dir. Paris 1900 (Paris: Panthéon Productions, 1947). 6 Originating with Lettrisme, the Situationist movement’s technique of détournement can be defined as a variation on previous work, in which the newly created work has a meaning that is antagonistic or antithetical to the original. See Guy Debord and Gil J. Wolman, “A User’s Guide to Détournement,” trans. Ken Knabb, in Situationist International Anthology, ed. Ken Knabb, rev. and expanded ed. (Berkeley, CA: Bureau of Public Secrets, 2006), 14–20. Originally published as “Mode d’emploi du détournement,” Les lévres nues, no. 8 (May 1956): 2–9. 7 Agnès Varda, dir. Les glaneurs et la glaneuse (Paris: Ciné Tamaris, 2000). 8 Jules Breton, La glaneuse (1894); Jean-François Millet, Les glaneuses (1857). Both are exhibited in the Musée d’Orsay, Paris. 9 The widely used concept of “double temporality” probably derives from Julia Kristeva’s use of it in her influential essay “Le temps des femmes” (1979), where she contrasts “cursive” and “monumental” concepts of time. In compilation films, it refers to the re-presentation of “past time.” See Julia Kristeva,
opens a path towards an experimental aesthetic, but both are characterised by incompleteness and stretch out the space of the “in between.” Alina Marazzi’s Un’ora sola ti vorrei uses compilation film as both critique and experiment. The film reconstructs the life of Luisa Marazzi Hoepli from girlhood to womanhood and its fragmentary objects, of which film is only one, tell a story of childhood, adolescence, and then motherhood and its attendant crises. Furthermore, the retelling of the story documents a highly charged social context and a specific historical moment. Luisa, known as Liseli, was the daughter of Ulrico Hoepli, who had inherited and then successfully ran the Milanese bookshop and publishing house founded by his father, both of which had an influential and prestigious place in Italian intellectual and cultural life. Liseli was brought up in this privileged and cultural bourgeois milieu but after she married and her two children (Martino and Alina) were born, she began to suffer from depression. For some time she stayed in the United States, while her husband carried out his research, but then the family returned to Italy and she spent increasing amounts of time in Swiss clinics and mental hospitals. At the age of thirty-three, when Alina was seven, she committed suicide. She was never mentioned in the Hoepli/Marazzi family any more, and Alina grew up with no knowledge of her mother or her history. As the story takes place in the years immediately before the arrival of the Women’s Liberation Movement, it has an extra historical poignancy. A film that is both a work of compilation and of feminist history, Alina Marazzi’s Un’ora sola ti vorrei (To Have Just an Hour with You, 2002)
Un’ora sola ti vorrei was created by Alina Marazzi primarily from home movies shot by her grandfather but also from photographs, letters, and diaries from which she constructed a soundtrack. The film images and the voice-over of Liseli’s thoughts, self-doubts, and “Women’s Time,” trans. Alice Jardine and Harry Blake, Signs 7, no. 1 (Autumn 1981): 13–35. For a new translation, see Kristeva, New Maladies of the Soul, trans. Ross Guberman (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), 201–24.
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rebellious instincts are thus, by and large, at odds with each other. Ulrico Hoepli filmed the main events of his family’s life, their rituals (birthdays, weddings, and the like), as well as holidays and moments from everyday life. When Liseli and her husband Antonio moved to America, they continued the tradition of filming, but as her depression grew worse, the filming falters. Towards the end of the film, the images of Liseli’s rare visits home, when she is often drowsy from her medications, are integrated with documents from the hospital, recording her treatments, as well as their cost. The aesthetic of compilation, its fragmentary and unfinished nature, has further significance for this film: first of all, the aesthetic reflects the difficulty of telling Liseli’s story; second, the editing, while using the course of Liseli’s life as a “vertical” form, rejects a linear chronology with “horizontal” insertions. Furthermore, the persistence of the past, of the actual instant of filming, the photographic quality that Roland Barthes evokes as “That-has-been,” finds extra poignancy in the images of Liseli.10 Within the film’s story, the association between the photographic image and death occurs literally, but the non-chronological editing enhances the temporal confusion built into the indexical sign so that a shadow is cast even over the young Liseli, which, in this extraordinary sequence of editing, interweaves Liseli’s mother and Liseli herself as a mother. Ultimately, and beyond the double temporality characteristic of any compilation film, Un’ora sola ti vorrei moves into the realm of history and, significantly in this context, exemplifies a work of “women making history.” There is a gap in time between Ulrico Hoepli’s filming and Alina Marazzi’s re-assem blage of the raw material, which was, itself, a long process involving various phases and changes. In the first instance, Alina was searching, on a personal level, for her lost mother, but as her work continued, she, in dialogue with her editor Ilaria Fraioli, came to the realisation that Liseli’s story has a significance and importance beyond the individual. From this point of view, folded within the time gap that separates Alina from her grandfather who shot the home movies, what is absolutely pivotal is the shift in consciousness that allows Alina to read her mother’s story, ultimately, as historical and emblematic of other contemporary young women’s experiences. The footage finds a changed or charged significance in the aftermath of feminism and the new social consciousness that gained currency from it. Out of the bits of home movie footage, Alina made a film that found public recognition and understanding, particularly among women, and, among them, most particularly women of her mother’s generation. The film moves the story from the realm of women’s silence and suffering to recognition within a feminist discourse of history. In temporal and ideological terms, Un’ora sola ti vorrei shares the aesthetic of compilation film as critique initiated by Esfir Shub. The distance in time is infinitely enhanced and exaggerated by the shift in consciousness between those filming and the women compiling. Analogously, without making a direct comparison, the gap between 10 See Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, trans. Richard Howard (London: Jonathan Cape, 1982), 76−77. The original French edition, La chambre claire, was published in 1978. In my earlier book I used “this was now” for the French “Ça-a-éte.” See Laura Mulvey, Death 24x a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image (London: Reaktion Books, 2006), 41–42, 44, 47.
the bourgeois and patriarchal vision behind the Hoepli home movies and the vision of their young woman editor, after the Women’s Liberation Movement and educated within feminism, is prefigured by the gap between Esfir Shub and the pre-revolutionary Tsarist movies she was compiling. Alina and her editor Ilaria found themselves questioning, not in the first instance but ultimately, the nature and authority of the original material. In commenting on the precision of her grandfather’s style and his command of mise-en-scène, as well as the technology of filming, Alina also points out that not only was his style the opposite of the one usually associated with home movies, but that his overarching intention, as she perceived it, was to record a bourgeois way of life through the particular life of his own well-to-do and cultured family. She refers to this as “highly controlled self-portraiture. . . no image was casually made” and she continues: [T]here was something we could not avoid and that did, in fact, generate a useful dialectic: the “look” of the camera operator. It was impossible to forget that these images were all made by a man filming his women, his muses: his wife, his daughter. . . The looks at the camera reveal a game of complicity between the filmmaker and those filmed. These women are beautiful and charming, captured by the equal charm of the camera work. But in my mother’s case, these images of happiness are shown to be false: it was as though the camera was not able to capture an essence beyond an appearance. . . For his whole life, this man had filmed his wife and then his daughter without succeeding in actually seeing them, without capturing the looks that these women gave him in return. The letters and diaries put this appearance of happiness continuously in question.11
But there are two sides to the relation between the raw material and the completed film. On the one hand there is critique: implicitly in the film and explicitly in the audience’s reaction to it. Liseli’s story stands as symptomatic of the oppressed condition of women before feminism, and the subsequent emergence of a more liberal society in the Italian context in the 1970s. It is, however, impossible to ignore the home movie footage’s own intrinsic beauty and fascination. Found footage, and this is very much the case in Un’ora sola ti vorrei, exudes a raw and material indexicality that cannot but enhance the film in which it is embedded. In a section of his Jean-Luc Godard, Cinema Historian entitled “The Museum of the Real,” Michael Witt sums up, through Godard’s example, film’s complex relation to its past: His model implies a number of different types of relationship between cinema and the world it represents. First, as chemical, electronic, or digital recordings, all films – irrespective of their nominal status as newsreels, documentaries, or fictional dramas – are intrinsically historical insofar as they capture and store time. Second, as a mimetic recording machine, cinema conserved the twentieth century on celluloid; as a result, all cinema’s stories – as he suggested in 1989 – form part of, and recount, the same history. All films, no matter how banal or trivial, and irrespective of ostensible intentions such as entertainment or information, serve to haphazardly document human attitudes, cultures, customs, behavior, clothing, and so on, thereby 11 Alina Marazzi, Un’ora sola ti vorrei (Milan: Rizzoli, 2006), 49–50. Trans. Laura Mulvey. Marazzi’s account of making the film accompanies the DVD (Dolmen Home Video, 2006).
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providing the historian with an incomparably rich audiovisual archive of the world from the late nineteenth century onward.12
This description is eminently relevant to Signor Hoepli’s footage: we do see “human attitudes, cultures, customs, behavior, clothing” in the rituals, holidays, and other events of the sophisticated and successful Milanese family. In her book, Alina comments on the footage of Sonia, a school friend of her mother, and Liseli on the beach, noting that it evokes an elegiac quality that she associates with the end of the 1950s: “There is something that is lost forever in this scene, something irrecoverable. The feel of something that will never return.”13 This feeling of nostalgia merges with the physical properties of celluloid, a medium that can “capture and store time.”14 Once its currency is lost, once it connotes an archaic world, celluloid film (and perhaps especially the material that belongs to the home movie genre) acquires an aura of the kind that Walter Benjamin recognised in painting as it faced the aging effects of photography. From this perspective, cans of film left unnoticed in archives for decades quite suddenly assume a new social significance and interest that logically leads to a reassessment of their value as documents of twentieth-century history. Old celluloid now exudes a kind of preciousness that even attaches itself to insignificant bits of film, and Alina’s account of the difficult process of recovering the original material documents their vulnerability excellently. To sum up: on the one hand, the specificity of the medium, its indexicality (in semiotic terms), and its inherent aesthetic qualities can reinforce emotionally and aesthetically the historical work of the editor-compiler but, on the other, indexicality continues to assert the presence of the past, across the ideological divide between the time when the recording took place and its re-configuration into something new. In this context, the footage filmed by the grandfather points to particular questions. The delayed interest in the old film is then not only a matter of politics and ideology: the material is hard to evaluate aesthetically. While all home movie footage might struggle with the question of value, and while what is preserved on celluloid here is a record of a class and an era, the magical qualities of the cinema are also preserved.
Time and the Archive Un’ora sola ti vorrei raises the question of the relationship between the film and the material from which it was drawn, as the home movies and the documents of Liseli’s life can be understood in terms of an archive. When Alina, as an adult, questioned her father about her mother, he told her that she should look in her grandparents’ attic, where everything relating to Liseli had been stored. There, Alina found a trunk containing letters, photographs, medical records, and Liseli’s teenage diaries. This was her mother’s archive and Alina describes the experience of being the first person since Liseli’s death to look through it, perceiving it as both magical and macabre. Subsequently, Alina found 12 Michael Witt, Jean-Luc Godard, Cinema Historian (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013), 23. 13 Marazzi, Un’ora sola ti vorrei, 68. 14 Witt, Jean-Luc Godard, Cinema Historian, 23.
her grandfather’s home movies in a cupboard; boxes and boxes of films (both 16mm and 8mm) that covered the life of the Hoepli family since 1926 but had stayed unopened and unwatched since Liseli’s death. While Liseli was neither named nor discussed in the Hoepli family, the preserved documents of her life seem to stand in not only for the trauma of her death but also its incomprehensibility. In his discussion of Sigmund Freud’s concept of archive, Jacques Derrida, in his Mal d’archive: une impression freudienne (Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, 1995), characterises the archive initially in terms of a topology, a site, and a nomology, an authority.15 In the Hoepli case, there is a definite sense of a topology: the attic, the trunk, the abandoned cupboard are all spaces of the relegated but preserved materials of a family’s memory, but especially the secret and the unspoken. Derrida’s topology resonates, in this case, with Gaston Bachelard’s “poetics of space”: the spaces in which these memories are housed have a particular significance within the topography of the family home.16 However, the informality of the material, its domesticity, even its femininity indicates that the material resists the patriarchal authority that Derrida considers to be fundamental to the archive. The grandfather had indeed recognised this himself, saying to Alina: “Why bother to look at all this? These are sciochezze [mere stupidities] that I made as a young man for fun; they are without any historical interest.”17 Ilaria, commenting on the intrinsic value of Signor Hoepli’s material, points out the contradiction between his assessment and its actual historical relevance: “he considered the films only to be a pastime without any value. This is confirmed by the fact that he hardly ever filmed his prestigious Hoepli bookshop, perhaps to avoid mixing the serious with the frivolous.”18 However, the material was able to find its authority, its nomology, through Alina and Ilaria’s shared vision. Describing the process of producing the film, Alina says: In the dialogue between the images and the words, beyond the letters and diaries, there is another level of writing: Ilaria’s and mine. We edited and re-edited, subverting the original intention of the images, appropriating and retelling the story as it seemed to us, taking up the point of view of the filmed. In a certain sense we liberated the feminine spirit imprisoned in those boxes, as though with Aladdin’s lamp.19
Alina also comments on the private nature of the material, not only as home movies but also as films depicting the everyday and the relation between mother and daughter and showing gestures repeated by women across time and generations. The incomprehensibility of Liseli’s life and death enables us to understand Derrida’s concept of the fever that disturbs the archive; and here, indeed, the fever is related specifically, as in Derrida, 15 See Jacques Derrida, “Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression,” trans. Eric Prenowitz, Diacritics 25, no. 2 (1995), 10. 16 See Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space: The Classic Look at How We Experience Intimate Places, trans. Maria Jolas (1964; Boston: Beacon Press, 1994), 3–37. The French original, La poétique de l’espace, was published in 1958. 17 Marazzi, Un’ora sola ti vorrei, 18. 18 Marazzi, Un’ora sola ti vorrei, 53. 19 Marazzi, Un’ora sola ti vorrei, 53.
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to the death drive.20 However, to my mind a more relevant disturbance might be found in the women’s feminist reworking of the material to create women’s history. Derrida’s reflection on the temporality of the archive has particular relevance to the relationship between Alina and Liseli that is embedded in Un’ora sola ti vorrei. He writes: In an enigmatic sense, which will clarify itself perhaps (perhaps, because nothing should be sure here, for essential reasons), the question of the archive is not, we repeat, a question of the past. It is not the question of a concept dealing with the past that might already be at our disposal or not at our disposal, an archivable concept of the archive. It is a question of the future, the question of the future itself, the question of a response, of a promise and of a responsibility for tomorrow. The archive: if we want to know what this will have meant, we will only know in the times to come. Perhaps. Not tomorrow but in the times to come, later on or perhaps never. A spectral messianicity is at work in the concept of the archive and ties it, like religion, like history, like science itself, to a very singular experience of the promise. And we are never far from Freud in saying this.21
The implication of the promise moves from Liseli to Alina and back again. If Derrida’s points have a particular relevance to archive film as such, they do so especially in this case since the question of address across time is central to the film’s aesthetics and politics. Within its material is stored a delayed promise that lies in wait for the future. Derrida’s analysis of Freud’s “archive fever” has a poignancy that touches on the aesthetic inherent in a photographic medium. He argues that Freud, in pursuit of his archaeological desire to make “stones speak,” that is, to give a voice to the unconscious, wants to exhume a more archaic impression, wants to exhibit a more archaic imprint . . . an imprint which each time is singular, an impression which is almost no longer an archive but which almost confuses itself with the pressure of the footstep which leaves its still-living mark on a substrate, a surface, a place of origin.22
As an indexical sign, a footstep easily suggests photosensitive material and the analogy is further enhanced by Derrida’s emphasis on the “still-living mark” that evokes, in turn, the way that film preserves an illusion of life after death. The film material used in Un’ora sola ti vorrei is doubly “fossilised.” In addition to embalming the past, it is also a record of patriarchal power. The grandfather’s original film preserves the symbolism of his order and, at the same time, both can and cannot perceive the dislocation concealed within its own filmic images. The home movie has impressed on it the authority of its source: the films carry the impression of the grandfather’s authority, as it were, like a stamp. On the other hand, the camera sees and film records beyond that authorising source, leaving another impression, perhaps more like the casual footprint. It was this duality that allowed Alina and Ilaria to subvert the original images and find a way to speak for the camera’s subjects. After decades of invisibility, 20 See Derrida, “Archive Fever,” 13–15. 21 Derrida, “Archive Fever,” 27–28. Italics in the original. 22 Derrida, “Archive Fever,” 61. Italics in the original.
these actual instances and split seconds can emerge into emotional significance and political recognition through the work of the compilation film’s montage. In the last resort, this material, which has waited decades to be analysed and evaluated, carries in the celluloid footprint something, perhaps even something of the “promise” that can be returned to the historical consciousness of the present day. Just as celluloid confuses temporality, so does the concept of promise speak from the past towards a future in which it might find redemption. An exchange between the past and future can be further illuminated by Freud’s concept of Nachtraglichkeit, translated by James Strachey as “deferred action.”23 As defined by Jean Laplanche and Jean-Bertrand Pontalis, the “deferred action” implies that experiences, impressions and memory traces may be revised at a later date to fit in with fresh experiences or with the attainment of a new stage of development. They may in that event be endowed not only with a new meaning but also with psychical effectiveness.24
Laplanche and Pontalis point out that such memory traces are a residue of trauma, the legacy of material that surpassed the subject’s understanding at the time of the original event. Both the indexical persistence of the past into the present, characteristic of photographic time and comparable to the memory trace, and the compilation film’s revision of the archive’s raw material suggest an analogy with the structure of trauma. In this case the retold material reveals the lot of a young woman whose experience resists incorporation into a meaningful context. Laplanche and Pontalis also point out that the concept of deferred action detracts from an overly linear pattern of human psychic development. Here, the time of the traumatic event and its later revision are intricately woven together. Although the reordering of found footage offers a revision of past events within the context of an altered consciousness, the new narrative does not completely dissolve the impact of the inassimilable presence of the past. Laplanche expanded his thoughts on Nachtraglichkeit with a new translation of the word as “afterwardness” and argues that in these kinds of memory “a message from the other” is hidden: Even if we concentrate all our attention on the retroactive temporal direction, in the sense that someone reinterprets their past, this past cannot be a purely factual one, an unprocessed or raw given. It is impossible therefore to put forward a purely hermeneutic position on this – that is to say, that everyone interprets their past according to their present – because the past already has something deposited within it that demands to be deciphered, which is the message of the other person. But does not modern hermeneutics forget its very beginning, when it was – in the religious interpretation of sacred texts – a hermeneutic of the message?25 23 See Sigmund Freud, Project for a Scientific Psychology, trans. James Strachey, in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Vol. 1 (1886–1899): Pre-Psycho-Analytic Publications and Unpublished Drafts, ed. James Strachey (London: Hogarth Press, 1966), 356. 24 Jean Laplanche and Jean-Bertrand Pontalis, The Language of Psycho-analysis, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (1973; London: Hogarth Press, 2006), 111. Originally as Vocabulaire de la Psychoanalyse (1967). See also Adam Phillips, “Freud and the Uses of Forgetting,” in On Flirtation (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994), 33–34. 25 Jean Laplanche, “Notes on Afterwardness,” in Essays on Otherness, ed. John Fletcher (Abingdon: Routledge,
Women Making History
Derrida’s combination of the words “spectral” and “messianicity” creates the image of a past haunting a future, once again confusing and fusing temporalities, and very particularly the haunted nature of the celluloid medium. Here, the idea of Derrida’s “promise” and Laplanche’s “message from the other” meet and find mutual relevance. To adapt Laplanche, the revision of the original archive footage that represented Liseli’s gradual breakdown and thus disappearance from the happiness of the home movies represents Derrida’s “something deposited within it that demands to be deciphered,” that is, the traces of a crisis around maternity and its contradictions. The film’s footage has a unique ability to bear witness to the past, to render the “message” visible and carry forward its “demand.” But the reordering and rearticulation of the footage stops short of a coherent narrative, and reaches out, by analogy, to a feminist concept of history and psychoanaly sis, as though these two disciplines might enable the political task of decipherment demanded by the “message.”
Bibliography Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space: The Classic Look at How We Experience Intimate Places. Translated by Maria Jolas. 1964. Boston: Beacon Press, 1994. Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. Translated by Richard Howard. London: Jonathan Cape, 1982. Caruth, Cathy. “An Interview with Jean Laplanche.” Postmodern Culture 11, no. 2 (2001), http:// pmc.iath.virginia.edu/text-only/issue.101/11.2caruth.txt. Debord, Guy, and Gil J. Wolman. “A User’s Guide to Détournement.” Translated by Ken Knabb. In Situationist International Anthology, edited by Ken Knabb. Revised and expanded edition. Berkeley, CA: Bureau of Public Secrets, 2006, 14–20. Derrida, Jacques. “Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression.” Translated by Eric Prenowitz. Diacritics 25, no. 2 (1995), 9–63. Freud, Sigmund. Project for a Scientific Psychology. Translated by James Strachey. In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Vol. 1 (1886–1899): Pre-Psycho-Analytic Publications and Unpublished Drafts. Ed. James Strachey. London: Hogarth Press, 1966. 283–397. Kristeva, Julia. “Women’s Time.” Trans. Alice Jardine and Harry Blake. Signs 7, no. 1 (Autumn 1981): 13–35. Kristeva, Julia. “Women’s Time.” In New Maladies of the Soul. Translated by Ross Guberman. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995. 201–24. Laplanche, Jean. “Notes on Afterwardness.” In Essays on Otherness, edited by John Fletcher. Abingdon: Routledge, 1998. 260–65. Laplanche, Jean, and Jean-Bertrand Pontalis. The Language of Psycho-analysis. Translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith. 1973. London: Hogarth Press, 2006. Leyda, Jay. Films Beget Films: A Study of the Compilation Film. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1964. Marazzi, Alina. Un’ora sola ti vorrei. Milan: Rizzoli, 2006. Marazzi, Alina, dir. Un’ora sola ti vorrei. Venerdì; Bartlebyfilm, 2002. Marazzi, Alina, dir. Un’ora sola ti vorrei. Dolmen Home Video, 2006. DVD.
1999), 265. See also Cathy Caruth, “An Interview with Jean Laplanche,” Postmodern Culture 11, no. 2 (2001), http://pmc.iath.virginia.edu/text-only/issue.101/11.2caruth.txt.
Mulvey, Laura. Death 24x a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image. London: Reaktion Books, 2006. Phillips, Adam. “Freud and the Uses of Forgetting.” In On Flirtation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994. Rowbotham, Sheila. Hidden from History: 300 Years of Women’s Oppression and the Fight against It. London: Pluto Press, 1973. Shub, Esfir, dir. Padenie dinastii Romanovykh. Moscow: Sovkino, 1927. Varda, Agnès, dir. Les glaneurs et la glaneuse. Paris: Ciné Tamaris, 2000. Védrès, Nicole, dir. Paris 1900. Paris: Panthéon Productions, 1947. Wilson, Emma. Love, Mortality and the Moving Image. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Witt, Michael. Jean-Luc Godard, Cinema Historian. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013.
3 Cold War Shaken, Not Stirred: James Bond as a Double Agent of Ideology and Entertainment* Pavel Bednařík
Introduction The academic analysis of one of the James Bond films, the most prolonged and internationally successful series in the history of cinema, and indeed audiovisual culture, will always have an ambivalent character. On the one hand, the Bond series is a trademark, a stable franchise, a variable family business plan, and a source of astronomical revenues.1 On the other hand, there is a wide spectrum of websites and fanzines devoted to the analysis of various aspects of the series. Finally, there is the phenomenon of James Bond as a subject of literary and film criticism, or a subject of research in the field of literature and film studies.2 Of all the possible aspects, the researchers focus most often on the mythmaking ones. Roland Barthes, who in his Mythologies (1957) defined a myth broadly as “a system of communication” that is “not defined by the object of its message, but by the way in which it utters this message,”3 opened the door to the mythologisation of popular and mass cultural phenomena with the goal of critiquing them and, through “treating ‘collective representations,’” of exposing the sign systems that contribute to the transformation of “petit-bourgeois culture into a universal nature.”4 In his essay on the actress Greta Garbo, Barthes focused on “the moment in cinema when capturing the human face still plunged audiences into the deepest ecstasy,”5 describing the reactions of the audiences, which can easily be extended from stylized acting (he also mentions Charlie Chaplin and Audrey Hepburn in this context) into the highly stylised action of the Bond series. Barthes’s ideological analysis can then be applied to the recurrent themes and motifs recurring in all the Bond films: the technical and moral supremacy of the British Empire, the transgressive immortality of a superheroic agent, and the existence of almighty conspiratorial pacts operating outside the bipolar Cold War world. Barthes admits: “Myth hides nothing and flaunts nothing: it distorts; myth is neither a lie nor a confession: it is an inflexion.”6 From this point of view, the ideological analysis, consisting, according to Barthes, of the reading and deciphering myths, will aim at the exposure of the meaning * Translated from Czech by Tereza Chocholová. 1 Since 1979, starting with Moonraker, Michael G. Wilson has been the executive producer of the Bond films; in 1994, Barbara Broccoli took over production after the death of her father Albert Broccoli. All the Bond films are produced by their Eon Productions company, and the licences are managed by the Danjaq company (owned by Wilson and the Broccoli family). 2 The authors of a whole range of studies are not able to balance this tension between the scholarly and lay approach, as can be proved through an uncountable number of works of varying quality and style written about various aspects of the film series. 3 Roland Barthes, Mythologies, trans. Annette Lavers (1972; Frogmore: Paladin, 1973), 109. 4 Barthes, Mythologies, 9. 5 Barthes, Mythologies, 56. 6 Barthes, Mythologies, 129.
of the symbolic dimension of the Bond series and its distortive relation to the world in which we live and its values, customs, and stereotypes. My aim in this chapter is to deal with two particular aspects of the phenomenon within a historiographic focus. The first is the political, cultural, and social context of the Bond films, which I will consider from an ideological perspective, using the method of critical ideological reading. The second is the possibility of a historical interpretation of the ideological topography of the Bond films from the perspective of the geopolitical division of the world into a “free” and “totalitarian” world, especially from the historical perspective of post-socialist Czechoslovakia. In brief, I ask: how can the subjects and motifs of selected Bond films be interpreted from an ideological perspective, and how were they perceived by Czechoslovak film criticism and by general audiences? It is important to note that differences of opinion on, and the interpretation of, the Bond mythology from an ideological perspective follow primarily from the different cultural milieux (at least that of the United Kingdom as the country of origin and Czechoslovakia, since 1993 the Czech Republic and Slovakia). In the United Kingdom, the Bond stories have been immensely popular since the 1950s (after the first edition of Ian Fleming’s novel Casino Royale in 1953), which was followed by a wave of film, cultural, and historical criticism and interpretation, primarily from a neo-Marxist viewpoint, a prominent example being Tony Bennett’s and Janet Woollacott’s book-length study Bond and Beyond: The Political Career of a Popular Hero (1987). According to Bennett and Woollacott, no other political and cultural constellation than that of the 1960s could breed such an enormously successful series as the Bond saga, which, from the mid-1970s, went beyond its status of “an isolated occurrence every two years,” becoming “more routinised, a more or less institutionalised ritual, especially when, after 1975, the transmission of a Bond film by ITV on Christmas Day established a regular place for Bond in the ‘way of life’ of the British people.”7 In the Czech and Slovak environment before 1989 the Bond phenomenon was mostly discussed in official socialist newspaper and magazine articles, almost exclusively seen through the lens of Marxism-Leninism, a transformed version of complex Marxist social philosophy, turned into the official state ideology in the U.S.S.R. and later its satellite countries.8 More relevant texts were published in exile magazines, such as Frankfurtský kurýr (published in Frankfurt am Main), Americké listy (New York), Hlas domova (Melbourne, Australia), and Krajanské noviny (Vienna, Austria). 7 Tony Bennett and Janet Woollacott, Bond and Beyond: The Political Career of a Popular Hero (London: Macmillan, 1987), 38. 8 Marxism-Leninism was established as a political doctrine by Georgi Plekhanov ca. 1908 and became the key element of Lenin’s state ideology and political philosophy. Leninism emphasised and promoted the materialist determinism and the leadership of the working class, which were, according to orthodox Marxists, a defalcation of Marx’s original social and economic theory. The most important stream of criticism came from the Trotskyists, who blamed Lenin and later Stalin for turning Marxism into a bureaucratic counter-revolution and the tyranny of the working class. In the 1960s and 1970s, Georg (György) Lukács’s elaboration of Marx’s concept of commodity fetishism, which contributed to the redefinition of Marxist ideology, was rediscovered by neo-Marxist theorists, for example, Louis Althusser, Stuart Hall, and Fredric Jameson, as well as postmodern/poststructuralist critics (Michel Foucault, Umberto Eco). Their attention was mainly focused on the notion of hegemony/totality of thought and ideological control. See David Hawkes, Ideology, 2nd ed. (2003; London: Routledge, 2006), 96–146.
Cold War Shaken, Not Stirred
One of the reasons for the fundamental difference in the reception of Bond films in the West and in Czechoslovakia was, naturally, the embargo on releasing so-called “imperialist” films, including stories of the British agent with a licence to kill; that is why the first film oficially released in Czech cinemas was The Living Daylights (1987, dir. John Glen) with Timothy Dalton, in 1993, a film with multiple settings, one of which was socialist Czechoslovakia, primarily Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. Another reason is the absence of a critical tradition in Czech academe dealing with pop-cultural phenomena. The only book so far that deals with the phenomenon of James Bond within Czech academic discourse is an edited volume of disparate scholarly texts, also including essays on Bond’s socialist counterpart, Major Zeman.9
The Orgasms of a Soviet Female Agent, or Czech Reception of Bond During the Socialist Era The early Czech reception of the Bond series balanced on the ideological boundary between the Marxist-Leninist ideology of the period and the growing influence in the early 1960s of popular culture from the West in socialist countries. The ruling ideology was still influenced by the so-called “Zhdanov Doctrine,” named after Andrei Zhdanov, who, as early as 1934, said at the first congress of the Union of Soviet Writers that the only permissible method for socialist artists is that of “socialist realism,” which combines “the truthfulness and historical concreteness of the artistic portrayal . . . with the ideological remolding and education of the toiling people in the spirit of socialism.”10 From that point of view, the Bond films were, naturally, denounced as products of bourgeois art and any mention of them in the press, however marginal, depended on the travels of prominent Czech officials and journalists to foreign festivals, or possibly attendance at private screenings. These were mostly held allegedly for the purpose of “studying” the despised bourgeois productions, but in fact for the amusement of top Communist Party officials, including those in charge of the cultural sphere in general and the film industry in particular. The Czech and Slovak press carried several references to the series and topical news about the shooting of its individual parts from the 1960s onwards, particularly in the magazines Kino, Záběr, and Film a doba. Criticism of Bond films (there is almost no relevant documentation concerning Ian 9 30 případů majora Zemana [Thirty cases of Major Zeman], (Československá televize, 1974–1979) was a popular criminal TV series, depicting historical events and criminal cases, one for each year between 1945 and 1974, investigated by a member of the Communist police, Jan Zeman. Conceived as a tribute to the 30th anniversary of the Czechoslovak state police and supported and supervised by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the series was a shameless example of Communist propaganda, misinterpreting and distorting real historical events and their backgrounds. See Petr A. Bílek, ed., James Bond a major Zeman: Ideologizující vzorce vyprávění [James Bond and Major Zeman: Ideologizing narrative patterns] (Praha: Paseka, 2007). 10 A. A. Zhdanov, “Soviet Literature – the Richest in Ideas, the Most Advanced Literature,” in Soviet Writers’ Congress 1934: The Debate on Socialist Realism and Modernism in the Soviet Union, ed. H. G. Scott (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1977), 15.
Fleming’s novels) took place primarily in the spirit of Marxism-Leninism, emphasising the “reactionary” nature of the films and their defence of bourgeois ideology and morals, as well as decadence and cynicism, which were, according to the majority of socialist reviewers, symptomatic of all western products. A good example is the book Igra s čertom i rassvet v uročnyj čas (Playing with the devil and the dawn at the appointed hour, 1975) by Georgy Kapralov, who analysed a number of films from the 1960s from a Marxist-Leninist perspective.11 Many authors referred at that time to Lenin’s remarks on film. Lenin was aware of the utmost importance of film in propaganda, and therefore he gave exact instructions as to which kinds of films should be supported by the state: “Attention to be given to the need for a careful selection of films with due consideration of the effect of every film on the population during its demonstration.”12 The espionage and political plots and motifs of the Bond films were naturally considered part of “western” propaganda, and as such they were interpreted in an ideological way. The main subjects of the criticism of socialist authors included anti-Communist and anti-Soviet motifs and themes. Miloslav Kovář in his book Film a ideologie (Film and ideology, 1985) refers to the Bond films of the 1970s as follows: The new, “modernized” series of the Bond films is pervaded by anti-Soviet motifs – both explicit and hidden ones. Taking place on earth as well as in space, these spy films are intended to inculcate mass viewers with fear and dread of the “red intrigues” while reinforcing the ideal of a “superman,” a fearless knight of the western world, who is allowed to do anything and who eliminates his enemies with the most modern means of destruction (for example, a nuclear bomb, space shuttles, or laser weapons). The key filmmakers of this spy film series made in the 1970s (where James Bond’s mission is to forge the cult of violence, cruelty and immorality primarily into the minds of the young generation and thus prepare it for a new, aggressive war) include the English directors G. Hamilton and J. L. Thompson.13
By means of such a one-sided and biased rendering of the Bond films, the authors from socialist countries created a framework of misinterpretation which could not be tested by real viewing experience, since the films were not accessible to general audiences. The then respectable critics accompanied their ideological interpretation with vivid descriptions of excesses; for example, Galina Kopaněva, referring to Goldfinger, highlights the depiction of the “orgasms of a Soviet female agent.” Kopaněva sees as one of the main drawbacks of the series its inspiration by comic strips “in their imbecility, insidiousness, vulgarity.”14 Later in the same article she writes: 11 See Georgy Kapralov, Igra s čertom i rassvet v uročnyj čas [Playing with the devil and the dawn at the appointed time] (Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1975). 12 V. I. Lenin, “Directions Concerning the Work of the Propaganda-Instructor Trains and Steamers,” in Collected Works: Volume 42, October 1917–March 1923, trans. Bernard Isaacs (1969; Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977), 161. 13 Miloslav Kovář, Film a ideologie [Film and ideology] (Praha: Panorama, 1985), 88. Trans. Tereza Chocholová. 14 Galina Kopaněva, “Bestseller dnešní doby – 007” [A bestseller of our times: 007], Film a doba, June 1965: 323. Trans. Tereza Chocholová.
Cold War Shaken, Not Stirred
It would be no problem if this hodgepodge was intended as ironic entertainment. Unfortunately, it is meant deadly seriously and filmed with deadly serious care. The auditorium is full of wide-eyed youngsters lapping up the elegant Bond with his precise blows to the abdominal region, loosening their ties à la Bond during close-ups of the ample bosom of Bond’s partners, braying with enthusiasm during an especially well-done murder, sinking their fingers into their seats during crazy chases of snow-white cars on the winding mountain roads, indulging in pleasant tingling during the torture scenes.15
Kopaněva ends her article with a scathing rejection of the series voiced by some anonymous friends of hers, who had recently seen Goldfinger in Munich: “A fairy tale for idiots . . . its brutality and filthy sex rhymes well with fascism.” Kopaněva’s commentary on this is simple: “How right they were!”16
Global Brand and Generic Formula Interpreting and analysing the cultural and social dimension of the mythological qualities of Bond texts and their contexts is ultimately a thankless task. With regard to their postmodern self-referential and metatextual allusions, they resist any complex interpretation. It is much easier and more common to attempt to capture the tabloid, star-studded demimonde, the image of which has been stimulated by several popular publications that also serve as advertising tools, thus co-creating a global cultural product with a massive impact.17 Bond films are part of the postmodern semantic play which has no real model although it is based on period facts.18 However, as emphasised by the author of one of the key British Bond studies, James Chapman, “the enormous popularity of the James Bond films is more than just the sum total of their box-office receipts, . . . it has to do with questions of film culture in a wider sense.”19 It is thus necessary to conceive of the Bond franchise as an integral part of the landscape of mass culture, with urgent ideological implications related to questions of political doctrines, race, gender, postcolonialism, nationalism, and cultural dominance. The creators of the series, primarily producers Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli, later Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, were aware of the multi-layered character of the Bond brand, combining the literary (Ian Fleming’s novels) with the cinematic (their film adaptations, which, in many cases, have almost nothing to do with Fleming’s
15 Kopaněva, “Bestseller dnešní doby – 007,” 323. Trans. Tereza Chocholová. 16 Kopaněva, “Bestseller dnešní doby – 007,” 323. Trans. Tereza Chocholová. 17 See, for example, Pauline Kael, Kiss Kiss Bang! Bang!: The Unofficial James Bond Companion (Boston: Little, Brown, 1968); Raymond Benson, The James Bond Bedside Companion (New York: Dodd Mead, 1984); Sally Hibbin, The Official James Bond 007 Movie Book (New York: Crown, 1989); Lee Pfeiffer and Philip Lisa, The Incredible World of 007 (New York: Carol, 1995), or Lee Pfeiffer and Dave Worrall, The Essential Bond: The Authorized Guide to the World of 007 (London: Boxtree, 1997). 18 The names of the protagonists or enemies are a great example of this – M, Q, Miss Moneypenny, General Gogol, Hugo Drax. All of these characters are but an empty semantic play with no real connotations. 19 James Chapman, Licence to Thrill: A Cultural History of the James Bond Films (London: I. B. Taurus, 2007), xiii.
books), “snobbery with violence,”20 strong plots with product placement, iconic actors with emerging talents, and technology with tradition. The production genealogy and thorough (though sometimes artificially grafted) continuity21 of the whole series demonstrate an effort to create a generic formula employing similar elements and motifs while reacting to the transformation of the tastes of the audience, the period, and political context, as well as the reception habits and trends. Chapman states that this formula has always been a combination of several genres of popular (film) culture: a British imperialist spy thriller, a thrilling adventure series, and an American action movie.22 An essential semantic shift of the formula can be seen when comparing Fleming’s books and the film series. The films transposed Fleming’s espionage experience from the Naval Intelligence Division (NID) during World War II, depicted in his novels, to the world of spies in the Cold War and the post-Cold War era. However, before moving on to an ideological interpretation of James Bond narratives, I will clarify my ideological position. My interpretive approach is post-Marxist, characterised best by Slavoj Žižek, who, in his attempt at locating ideological illusion, or fantasy, returns to “the Marxian formula ‘they don’t know it, but they are doing it,’” and, asking whether the illusion lies “in the ‘knowing’ or in the ‘doing’ of the reality itself,” gets from Marx to Peter Sloterdijk and his “they know very well what they are doing, but still, they are doing it.” Therefore, as for me, the ideological fantasy is, for him, not a false consciousness, but a legitimate belief followed by common sense.23 I also agree with Fredric Jameson, who repudiates the opinion that we are not able to provide an ideological interpretation from a neutral position: “Here the usual objection – that the class includes itself and that the taxonomy fails to include any (sufficiently privileged) place from which to observe itself or to provide for its own theorization – has to be reckoned into the theory as a kind of bad reflexivity that eats its own tail without ever squaring the circle.”24 In this context, I will discuss the paradox of the apparently apolitical character of the James Bond series. On the one hand, the producers rejected any speculation concerning the political or propagandistic shaping of Bond’s character projected into the individual plotlines with respect to box office sales tactics in the Cold War period. Albert Broccoli said about it: “We decided to steer 007 and the scripts clear of politics. Bond would have no identifiable political affiliation. None of the protagonists would be the stereotyped Iron Curtain or ‘inscrutable Oriental’ villain. First, it’s old-fashioned; second, it’s calculated to induce pointless controversy.”25 On the other hand, there is the clear statement of the veteran screenwriter of the series, Richard Maibaum, admitting that the authors 20 It is even the title of a chapter in Chapman’s book. Chapman, Licence to Thrill, 49–88. 21 Most of the films of the 1980s ended with “James Bond will return in. . .” However, because of the uncertain production background, the producers refrained from this, starting with GoldenEye. In the most recent Bond films, starting with Casino Royale (2006, dir. Martin Campbell), Daniel Craig’s first appearance, this line returned. 22 See James Chapman, Licence to Thrill, 16–18. 23 Slavoj Žižek, Sublime Object of the Ideology (London: Verso, 1989), 27, 30. Italics in the original. 24 Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham: Duke University Press, 1991), 64. 25 Paul Duncan, ed., The James Bond Archives (Köln: Taschen, 2012), 235.
Cold War Shaken, Not Stirred
tried to get ahead of the political events when writing the scripts. In 1989 Maibaum told Mark A. Altman about From Russia with Love (1963, dir. Terence Young): In fact, I think we were ahead of government policy towards the Russians. We let up on them sooner than the government did. We had Rosa Klebb become a defector from the Russians in From Russia With Love and attributed all that was going on to Blowfeld’s [sic] bunch, unlike the novel.26
Because of the producers’ ambitions and intentions to negotiate sales in the “Eastern Bloc” and initiating a possible co-production with the Soviet Union,27 only selected films from the whole series can be considered to have a strong ideological Cold War focus: apart from From Russia with Love and The Living Daylights, mentioned earlier, they were You Only Live Twice (1967, dir. Lewis Gilbert), Moonraker (1979, dir. Lewis Gilbert), For Your Eyes Only (1985, dir. John Glen), and GoldenEye (1995, dir. Martin Campbell).28 In these films, it is possible to trace back a clear narrative strategy aiming to confirm the East/West opposition and a clear shaping of the plot or the protagonists as part of the ideological struggle. James Bond’s crusade in the heart of Saint Petersburg in GoldenEye.
Ideological Reading Before attempting an ideological analysis of the films, I will identify the historical milestones of the series, which were conditioned by the context of the period as well as the social and political discourse. It is only after this preliminary classification that we can understand the development of the generic formula of the series, which reflects its ideological anchoring in the global mythology of popular culture. The box office success of the series also depended on the timing of the individual films’ premieres, which reflected mass taste as well as the political climate of the times, as was the case with the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis (From Russia with Love), the Space Race between the U.S. and 26 Richard Maibaum quoted in Mark A. Altman, “Writing Bond: Richard Maibaum Has Had a Hand in Scripting All but Three of 007’s Sixteen Screen Adventures,” Cinefantastique, July 1989: 56. 27 “The Russians were very unhappy about us for a while,” Maibaum said. “The Kremlin and the Vatican both were and they loosed some real diatribes in the press. Cubby Broccoli went to Russia and they talked about the possibility of doing a co-production. They were very charming, but didn’t feel that the time was right yet.” Altman, “Writing Bond,” 56. 28 Even though GoldenEye is the first Bond film after the fall of the Iron Curtain, its producers’ strategy was to come to terms with nostalgia after the Cold War; that is why the plot and locations were still based on the dichotomy of the “old” Soviet world and the “new” democratic Western world.
the U.S.S.R. (Moonraker), or the “perestroika” process launched in 1986 by Mikhail Gorbachev (The Living Daylights). Political reverberations can already be found in the reviews of Dr. No (dir. Terence Young) in 1962, when the Cuban Missile Crisis arose and President J. F. Kennedy expressed his liking for Fleming’s novels, especially his 1957 From Russia with Love. However, a more important milestone for the series, from the ideological and geopolitical perspective at least, came in 1968, or rather in the years 1968–1970, as a result of the essential transformation following the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and the new stage of East-West relations. Another turning point of the series was that of 1989 and the fall of the totalitarian regimes in Eastern Europe, although the six-year hiatus between the 1989 Licence to Kill (dir. John Glen) and the 1995 GoldenEye was not caused primarily by the change in the political climate, but rather by production and personal problems.29 Critic Andrew Collins comments on the paradox of resentment at the fall of the totalitarian regimes after the revival of the series in the 1990s: “Cold Wars end, walls come down, empires rise and fall, but James Bond is a reassuring constant in an ever-changing world, neither shaken nor stirred by progress.”30 In the analysis that follows, I employ the structuralist method of Umberto Eco, as well as the contextual ideological and cultural analysis represented by Fredric Jameson and James Chapman, to arrive at my ideological reading. Eco’s starting point for his interpretation of the formula of the Bond series (both novels and films) and the prerequisite for his ideological analysis consists of the dichotomous interpretation of the narrative structure of the James Bond stories. In his analysis, Eco claims that Fleming eliminated all psychology for the purpose of creating an objective and conventional structural strategy which is divided into binary oppositions between characters (Bond/M, Bond/villain, Bond/woman), ideologies (free world/Soviet Union, England/other non-Anglo-Saxon countries), and values (devotion/sacrifice, perversity/innocence, luxury/discomfort, eccentricity/moderation, loyalty/disloyalty).31 According to Chapman, the success of the formula is not granted by “the qualities of Fleming’s writing” but rather by “their structural and ideological mechanisms.”32 The same goes for the film versions, whose cultural impact depends on several contexts rather than on the very artistic intention and its fulfilment (for example, the choice of a particular director or the casting of Bond). 29 Paradoxically, this historical and political turning point influenced the narrative ground plan and the protagonists of GoldenEye, which represented a reboot of the series with a new James Bond actor, Pierce Brosnan. Although the subject is based on the dissolution of the Socialist Bloc, the film’s characters (primarily General Ourumov) and plotline develop according to the traditional East/West axis. This is only complicated by a sub-plot involving two renegades, Agent 006 and General Ourumov, the traitorous head of Soviet Space Command, who merely serve their personal interests (revenge, global power) instead of the unselfish interests represented by Bond. 30 Andrew Collins, “An Enduring Bond,” Radio Times, June 5, 1999: 56. 31 See Umberto Eco, “The Narrative Structure in Fleming,” in The Bond Affair, ed. Oreste del Buono and Umberto Eco, trans. R. A. Downie (London: Macdonald, 1966), 39; see also the abridged version of the article in Umberto Eco, The Role of the Reader: Explorations in the Semiotics of Texts (1979; Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984), 147. 32 Chapman, Licence to Thrill, 25.
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The key for the ideological analysis, whose principles and examples in Bond texts I will outline, lies in these binary oppositions. Rather than closely analyse all of the films or selected motifs and themes that appear recurrently in the series, my aim is to use selected examples to demonstrate the likely possibility of the ideological reading arising from deciphering “ideologemes,” which Jameson defined as the ideological archetypes, or codes, which represent a subliminal part of the common viewing experience and reception.33 According to Jameson, these ideological archetypes are constructed as part of a “political unconscious” in which all historical facts open to us directly only as texts and narratives, and provide the missing causal link, which is supplied by them with a generally accepted historical meaning. The political unconscious is characterised by Jameson as the ideological background of our everyday fantasies, beliefs, and prejudices, shared and multiplied via collective thinking and mediation. According to him, a literary work or a cultural object “as though for the first time, brings into being that very situation to which it is also, at one and the same time, a reaction” and “articulates its own situation and textualizes it, thereby encouraging and perpetuating the illusion that the situation itself did not exist before it, that there is nothing but the text, that there never was any extra- or con-textual reality before the text itself generated it in the form of a mirage.”34 As a result of the dominant meanings we get from the texts and narratives, we can understand history as a network of causal links, impulses, and consequences, which gives us – in the form of narrative representation – certain explanations of historical, political, and social relations. What follows from Jameson’s theory of ideological interpretation is that even in Bond films we can analyse the basic constructional elements, ideologemes, in the form of the individual narratives, motifs, or characters, and their relationships. In his theorisation, Jameson describes how our collective political unconscious is constantly tempted to apply allegorical narratives to particular cultural texts to open them up “to multiple meanings, to successive rewritings and overwritings which are generated as so many levels and as so many supplementary interpretations.”35 These allegorical master narratives have inscribed themselves in the texts as well as in our thinking about them; such allegorical narrative signifieds are a persistent dimension of literary and cultural texts precisely because they reflect a fundamental dimension of our collective thinking and our collective fantasies about history and reality.36
How can Jameson’s thesis of the allegorical master narrative be applied to the interpretation of the films of the Bond series in practice? Let us recall the basic standardised formula of the Bond films along which the individual screenplays are developed, creating the ideological map related to the historical and political context of a certain period. The Bond films are based on a consistent basic plot formula: 33 See Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (New York: Cornell University Press, 1981), 71–73. 34 Jameson, The Political Unconscious, 66. 35 Jameson, The Political Unconscious, 13. 36 Jameson, The Political Unconscious, 18.
Pavel Bednařík [A] villainous conspiracy is plotted; Bond is assigned by M . . . to investigate; Bond travels abroad and meets up with allies; various attempts are made to kill Bond; Bond seduces a woman in the service of the villain; Bond meets “the girl” who is destined to be a principal heroine; an ally meets a grisly death; Bond and the girl are captured by the villain and taken inside his headquarters; the villain reveals his plot to Bond; Bond then foils the plot, kills the villain and escapes with the girl.37
The motifs and themes of individual films, mostly based on period discourse and Eco’s dichotomy, are woven into this formula, which is subjected to many variations and updates in the course of the series. I focus here on some selected themes to illustrate the mechanism of this social and symbolic act of narrativisation of historical facts in Bond films.
1 Salvation of the world The basic ideologeme is that of Bond’s messianic dimension, which is part of the balancing of global political forces. In defence of the hegemonic principles of Victorian England (as distinct from liberal morality), 007 enters his missions to save the world from criminal conspiracies, thus showing the global dominance of the imperial past of the United Kingdom, as well as its sovereignty and independence from democratic (the U.S.) as well as totalitarian (the U.S.S.R) countries. In decisive moments, Bond never acts in a private capacity but always in the higher interest of maintaining the balance of the political map of the world, and with the aim of eliminating the enemies of civilised society. In Fleming’s books as well as in the Bond films, saving the world derived its messianic ethos from the ideologies of World War II, which also determined the profiles of Bond’s enemies. In Ben Macintyre’s words, Bond is a world-saver, just as Britain perceived itself to be during the war. . . . Even the demonology derives from that conflict: evildoers being, in approximate order of untrustworthiness, German, Russian, Japanese, Bulgarian, Korean and French. Characters are endowed with realistic, and often elaborate, past histories, to place them more firmly in the present. Polish-born Blofeld, we discover, spied for Germany during the war. The brutal communist Le Chiffre was found wandering in the Dachau displaced persons camp, apparently suffering from amnesia.38
In all of Fleming’s original novels, as well as their film versions, the existing evil superpowers are replaced by a fictional secret organisation, SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion), which substituted for the previous, equally fictional, SMERSH (an acronym of the Russian Spetsyalnye metody raz oblacheniya shpyonov, or Special Methods of Spy Detection), thus helping to moderate the ideological thrust of the stories. However, the two organisations have but one aim: a global revolution and a change of the global order by means of available weapons of mass destruction. Although these are fictional elements, concrete allusions present the 37 Chapman, Licence to Thrill, 61. Chapman here paraphrases Umberto Eco, see Eco, “The Narrative Structure in Fleming,” 54–57; see also Eco, The Role of the Reader, 157–59. 38 Ben Macintyre, For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming + James Bond (2008; London: Bloomsbury, 2009), 85, 87.
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members of these organisations as former Soviet or Nazi spies. In Fleming’s novels, there is an ideological shift from an organisation initiated by the Soviets to a strictly politically neutral organisation. In the context of plots featuring super-secret organisations which are not ideo logically linked to global relations during the Cold War, Bond and England act as patrons of global peace and the balance of power. According to Chapman, in Thunderball (1965, dir. Terence Young), Bond is shown almost “as a hero of the NATO alliance.” This is “inscribed in the text itself, in so far as SPECTRE’s threat is explicitly directed against NATO.”39
2 Soviet criminals Antagonists from the Soviet Bloc are already featured in From Russia with Love, in which the story was directly based on the “real” backdrop of the threat of the Soviet Union, especially in connection to the escalated atmosphere during the Cuban Missile Crisis; however, they would remain part of the Bond mythology until the 1995 GoldenEye. In this film, it becomes especially obvious how the dominant code of the bipolar world is projected into reality long after the fall of the Iron Curtain and Soviet Russia. The main enemy (although seemingly an ally at first) is the former MI6 agent Alec Trevelyan, with his experience of being an elite agent and an expert on space-based weapons. Despite this, the plot alludes heavily to the Cold War era: Trevelyan’s greatest ally is General Ourumov, the goal of Bond’s mission is to destroy a Russian nerve gas factory, and Bond’s main ally is a Russian programmer, Natalya Simonova, from the polar station from where a satellite weapon, GoldenEye, was stolen. The whole film is filled with renegades of the past era and Soviet symbolism (the credits sequence includes a cemetery of sculptures of Lenin and Stalin), creating thus the post-totalitarian fantasy of a globalising world. General Arkady Grigorovich Ourumov (played by Gottfried John), the incarnation of Russian postSoviet power in the 1995 Bond rebirth GoldenEye.
Nevertheless, the business strategy of the Bond producers has moderated the profiles of enemies from the Soviet Bloc, and the screenwriters modified the scripts so that the films 39 Chapman, Licence to Thrill, 102. The notion of Bond as a NATO hero comes from Tony Bennett and Janet Woollacott.
do not give the impression of being anti-Soviet propaganda. General Gogol, the chief of the KGB, appears in various roles in the films: in his first appearance, in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977, dir. Lewis Gilbert), he acts as a pragmatic ally of MI6, but from For Your Eyes Only onwards he is a villain and part of the Soviet conspiracy network. As far as the migration of motifs and themes between the novels and their loose film adaptations is concerned, there is a gradual diversion from the representation of a direct Soviet enemy (in the novels); nevertheless, Soviet enemies appear in the films until GoldenEye, even though they are portrayed as renegades who are not directly responsible for the governmental policy and ideological direction of the U.S.S.R. As Macintyre notes, in Fleming’s novels from 1960 onwards, Bond’s enemies are no longer the Soviet menace, but individual crooks and killers, gangsters of the higher variety, and most notably SPECTRE, the crime syndicate staffed by ex-members of SMERSH, the Gestapo, the Mafia and the Black Tong of Peking, and run by Blofeld. The shift of focus is even more emphatic in the films. Where once Bond battled ideological foes, in his latter-day incarnations he takes on freelance bandits, mafia types and criminal megalo maniacs – terrifying but politically neutral.40
3 Espionage and secret services While some of the films emphasise the binary ideological axis of good and evil in the form of democratic countries versus the Soviet Union – besides From Russia with Love, For Your Eyes Only, and The Living Daylights also Octopussy (1983, dir. John Glen) – others, which are not built on an ideological pattern, such as The Spy Who Loved Me and A View to a Kill (1985, dir. John Glen), thematise the collaboration of the two secret services sharing a common goal. In the whole series, the relation between values and political positions is represented by the interaction of the two secret services (MI6 and the KGB), with the 1980s films representing political transformation, détente, and “perestroika” policies. “We have entered a new era of Anglo-Soviet cooperation,” claims General Gogol in The Spy Who Loved Me. The relationship of the “democratic” secret services, the British MI6 and the American CIA, is an independent theme within the narrative ideology of the Bond series. Bond often allies with CIA agent Felix Leiter, who appears in Dr. No, Diamonds Are Forever (1971, dir. Guy Hamilton), Live and Let Die (1973, dir. Guy Hamilton), The Man with the Golden Gun (1974, dir. Guy Hamilton), and Quantum of Solace (2008, dir. Marc Forster). Leiter represents the visible and friendly face of the American secret service. The Bond/Leiter relationship is to illustrate the contrast between traditional, archetypal royal values and the artificial, adolescent democracy of the United States, which must be legitimised by the intervention of British experience and worldliness. However, the role of the British secret service is rather a wishful hope and a phantasmic utopia without any corresponding correlation with reality. Macintyre describes the historical relationship between these two intelligence services as one of British marginality: 40 Macintyre, For Your Eyes Only, 99.
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Britain’s power was eroding fast, and in the great espionage confrontation between the CIA and the KGB, Britain’s SIS was no more than a minor player. In the 1950s, the British intelligence establishment was rocked by the exposure of an entire Soviet spy network within its ranks: the defections of Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean represented a body blow to the prestige and self-confidence of the British secret service.41
The final symbolic scene of the 1981 For Your Eyes Only adumbrates the political transformation of East-West relations from the early 1980s. Bond seizes the ATAC secret communication system, which represents a security threat to the democratic world, and destroys it by throwing it off a rock. The head of the Russian secret service, Gogol, who longs to get hold of the device, is brushed off with the line, “That’s détente, Comrade!” This illustrates the tense relations of the Cold War and the pressure for nuclear disarmament which is required by international conventions and escalated diplomacy, rather than by the will of the individual players in the Cold War.
4 In Her Majesty’s service Although the early Bond phenomenon was connected with the “swinging London” generation and the frivolous atmosphere of the changes of the 1960s through the films’ arresting visual stylisation, its ideological foundation lies in the conservative concept of British colonialism of the nineteenth century. Bond may be a global agent; however, his international adventures are to protect the political status quo, or possibly guarantee the supremacy of the free world over a world that is restricted, totalitarian, and despotic. The motifs of patriotism and colonial nationalism can be found in almost all the films of the series; in some of them, such as On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969, dir. Peter Hunt), The Spy Who Loved Me, or Skyfall (2012, dir. Sam Mendes), these motifs are emphasised as part of the identity of the secret agent, as well as of the whole corporate brand. British sovereignty plays a significant role in most of the novels and films; however, its narrative anchoring also has an ironic aspect. The laconic line from 007 in the introductory sequence of The Spy Who Loved Me, after the double agent’s exclamation, “But James, I need you,” namely “So does England,” reveals the essence of this ironic yet ingenious patriotic play.
Post-colonial and Post-totalitarian Fantasy From its very beginning, the Bond series has engaged in a clever play with cultural and political identities, a part of the global industry’s collective fantasy of the changing world, and its social and class relations. The role of Agent 007, with a licence to kill, has a special meaning in the re-contextualisation of historical connections by means of the 41 Macintyre, For Your Eyes Only, 86. Burgess and Maclean were members of the well-known Cambridge Five spy group, which leaked top-secret Foreign Office and MI5 documents (such as NATO military documents and the economic strategy of the Marshall plan) to the Soviet KGB.
narrativisation of familiar motifs, themes, characters, stories, and plots that determine the viewers’ identification with various historical eras of modern history. The Bond mythology has pervaded the world of entertainment, the film industry, and even academic research, as well as forming a consumer business brand. It gets even more significant with respect to the great box-office success of the series, as Bond has co-created the cultural and historical awareness of the Cold War era for a large mass of viewers who are part of the interpretation game, following the rules of the fictional world. Although Ian Fleming and subsequent screenwriters cannot be granted full respon sibility for a collective historical interpretation, their role as active generators of ideology should not be diminished. The scripts of Bond films are post-colonial and post-totalitarian fantasies, abounding in narrative courage while also creating a conservative ideological field in which they provide an ambivalent record of the traditional values of “old England,” as well as the moral ambivalence and cynicism typical of 007. However, the ideology of the Bond films based on these ideologemes is not rigid. As Chapman notes, business interests always override doctrine and narrative principles and marketing motivation always prevail over the ideological message: The substitution of a conspiracy with Nazi overtones for the Communist-backed threat of the book demonstrates the ideological flexibility of the Bond films: the forces which threaten the world with destruction do not represent a particular political ideology, but rather an irrational and anarchic threat to civilisation as we know it which may derive equally from left and right.42
A detailed ideological analysis of the individual motifs and themes of the entire series, as well as a deeper insight into the motivations and profiles of the individual villains, would require its own essay. But in conclusion, I want to focus on the historical turning point represented by the suspension of the series in the late 1980s, and the end of the political division into East and West. The new era brought a whole range of unexpected social changes, as well as new philosophical, political, and sociological perspectives. “The end of ideology”43 was not only reflected in a number of studies but also became part of the marketing policy of GoldenEye, which marked a relaunch of the series, entering a new era of the globalisation of markets, business, and culture industry. The promotional material from United International Pictures for GoldenEye explains the strategy in the new political environment: [T]he ‘classic’ Bond films . . . are a memory, a past associated with the pre-Glasnost era. The world has changed – the Berlin Wall has come down and those that were regarded as enemies, are now our allies, and some who were friends cannot necessarily be regarded as so. ‘Political correctness’ is now taken for granted. Is there still a place in the modern world for a Secret Agent like 007? The answer is emphatically yes. GoldenEye presents a Bond for the 90’s. This is a contemporary action film clearly reflecting the world in which we live. There are many 42 Chapman, Licence to Thrill, 165. 43 The term was first used by the sociologist Daniel Bell in his book The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties (Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1960) and resurrected by Francis Fukuyama in The End of History and the Last Man (New York: Free Press; Maxwell Macmillan International, 1992).
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elements that position the story in today’s world – from bungee jumping and computer hacking to a female M, and a sports car that hasn’t even been launched yet!44
This excerpt suggests that the totalitarian era has been transformed into a posttotalitarian and post-ideological era without the slightest problem. However, after subjecting GoldenEye to an ideological analysis according to Jameson’s principles and theses, it becomes clear that the “post-ideology” is merely a new ideology; as Slavoj Žižek claims, “the idea that we live in a post-ideological society proceeds a little too quickly: cynical reason, with all its ironic detachment, leaves untouched the fundamental level of ideological fantasy, the level on which ideology structures the social reality itself.”45 The ideology of capitalism is articulated as part of the democratic transformation of society, and the global market is a new territory within which Bond continues to save the world from the twisted intentions of villains. However, along with his transformation into a global brand and a worldwide cultural phenomenon, Bond has become an even more complex object of ideological research, and a part of the political unconscious which generates new challenges and new problems in both reception and interpretation. Ideological analysis of the Bond series is therefore pertinent and useful, although the new Bond, incarnated by Daniel Craig, is a revisionist one.
Bibliography Altman, Mark A. “Writing Bond: Richard Maibaum Has Had a Hand in Scripting All but Three of 007’s Sixteen Screen Adventures.” Cinefantastique, July 1989: 22–23, 56. Barthes, Roland. Mythologies. Translated by Annette Lavers. 1972. Frogmore: Paladin, 1973. Bell, Daniel. The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties. Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1960. Bennett, Tony, and Janet Woollacott. Bond and Beyond: The Political Career of a Popular Hero. London: Macmillan, 1987. Benson, Raymond. The James Bond Bedside Companion. New York: Dodd Mead, 1984. Bílek, Petr A., ed. James Bond a major Zeman: Ideologizující vzorce vyprávění. Praha: Paseka, 2007. Campbell, Martin, dir. GoldenEye. 1995. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2008. DVD. Campbell, Martin, dir. Casino Royale. 2006. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2012. DVD. Chapman, James. Licence to Thrill: A Cultural History of the James Bond Films. London: I. B. Taurus, 2007. Collins, Andrew. “An Enduring Bond.” Radio Times, June 5, 1999: 56. Duncan, Paul, ed. The James Bond Archives. Köln: Taschen, 2012. Eco, Umberto. “The Narrative Structure in Fleming.” In The Bond Affair, edited by Oreste del Buono and Umberto Eco. Translated by R. A. Downie. London: Macdonald, 1966. 35–75. Eco, Umberto. The Role of the Reader: Explorations in the Semiotics of Texts. 1979. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984. Forster, Marc. dir. Quantum of Solace. 2008. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2009. DVD.
44 Quoted in Chapman, Licence to Thrill, 216. 45 Žižek, Sublime Object of the Ideology, 28–30.
54 Fukuyama, Francis. The End of History and the Last Man. New York: Free Press; Maxwell Macmillan International, 1992. Gilbert, Lewis, dir. Moonraker. 1979. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2008. DVD. Gilbert, Lewis, dir. The Spy Who Loved Me. 1977. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2008. DVD. Gilbert, Lewis, dir. You Only Live Twice. 1967. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2008. DVD. Glen, John, dir. For Your Eyes Only. 1985. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2008. DVD. Glen, John, dir. Licence to Kill, 1989. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2008. DVD. Glen, John, dir. The Living Daylights. 1987. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2008. DVD. Glen, John, dir. Octopussy. 1983. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2008. DVD. Glen, John, dir. A View to a Kill. 1985. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2008. DVD. Hamilton, Guy, dir. Diamonds Are Forever. 1971. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2008. DVD. Hamilton, Guy, dir. Live and Let Die. 1973. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2008. DVD. Hamilton, Guy, dir. The Man with the Golden Gun. 1974. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2008. DVD. Hawkes, David. Ideology. 2nd ed. 2003. London: Routledge, 2006. Hibbin, Sally. The Official James Bond 007 Movie Book. New York: Crown, 1989. Hunt, Peter, dir. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. 1969. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2008. DVD. Jameson, Fredric. Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act. New York: Cornell University Press, 1981. Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham: Duke University Press, 1991. Kapralov, Georgy. Igra s čertom i rassvet v uročnyj čas. Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1975. Kael, Pauline. Kiss Kiss Bang! Bang!: The Unofficial James Bond Companion. Boston: Little, Brown, 1968. Kovář, Miloslav. Film a ideologie. Praha: Panorama, 1985. Kopaněva, Galina. “Bestseller dnešní doby – 007.” Film a doba, June 1965: 323. Lenin, V. I. “Directions Concerning the Work of the Propaganda-Instructor Trains and Steamers.” In Collected Works: Volume 42, October 1917–March 1923. Translated by Bernard Isaacs. 1969. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977. 160–62. Macintyre, Ben. For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming + James Bond. 2008. London: Bloomsbury, 2009. Mendes, Sam, dir. Skyfall. 2012. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2013. DVD. Pfeiffer, Lee, and Dave Worrall. The Essential Bond: The Authorized Guide to the World of 007. London: Boxtree, 1997. Pfeiffer, Lee, and Philip Lisa, The Incredible World of 007. New York: Carol, 1995. Young, Terence, dir. Dr. No, 1962. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2008. DVD. Young, Terence, dir. From Russia with Love. 1963. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2008. DVD. Young, Terence, dir. Thunderball. 1965. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2008. DVD. Zhdanov, A. A. “Soviet Literature – the Richest in Ideas, the Most Advanced Literature.” In Soviet Writers’ Congress 1934: The Debate on Socialist Realism and Modernism in the Soviet Union, edited by H. G. Scott. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1977. 15–26. Žižek, Slavoj. Sublime Object of the Ideology. London: Verso, 1989.
4 Hidden in Plain Sight: Uncovering the Secret History of Brainwashing – A Dialogue Daniel Pick and Ian Christie Ian Christie: Is it true that we mainly know about brainwashing today from films? Daniel Pick: I think the interaction between films and popular journalism comes into this story from the beginning. The idea of brainwashing resonated powerfully in a Cold War political climate and became a staple of press reports and cinema as well as popular fiction. This was an age in which culture, film, and certain academic disciplines such as psychology were seen as powerful tools, even weapons: ideas, it was thought, might be infiltrated, and academic knowledge “weaponised.” The Cold War was often cast as a Manichean battle for the mind in which new techniques of “hidden persuasion” would be paramount.1 IC: When did the term “brainwashing” become popular? DP: An enterprising American journalist, Edward Hunter, coined the word in 1950. He drew upon a Chinese term for brain cleansing and gave it a much more sinister twist: not a cathartic process, but the erasure of the free mind and its substitution by another, governing will. Brainwashing captured substantial press coverage and other forms of public attention in the United States during the Korean War, above all in its final chapter when twenty-one American prisoners of war opted to stay in Mao’s China, rather than returning home. Accusations of brainwashing flew all over the place, but often the targets of the diagnosis, or charge, did not recognise themselves in it. Thus it is worth comparing the shrill commentary that surrounded these cases, well documented by historians, such as Susan Carruthers in her book Cold War Captives, with the first-person accounts given by some of those men, writing about their experiences of war and captivity, and of the reasons for their post-war choices, as set out, for instance, by Clarence Adams in his book An American Dream, describing the twelve years he spent as a POW in Communist China.2 Brainwashing may have been debunked but it was also an effective idea, a kind of mirror onto perceived vulnerabilities in American society itself, and it often resonated with racial, class, and gender prejudices, of course. The idea that soldiers might become malleable, ineffectual, confused, even brainwashed, connoted this perceived domestic vulnerability; 1 Vance Packard’s book, The Hidden Persuaders (New York: D. McKay, 1957) explored the use of psychological research by advertisers to maximize the impact and sales of their products by subliminal techniques. It had a wide impact and its title quickly entered the everyday vocabulary. 2 See Susan L. Carruthers, Cold War Captives: Imprisonment, Escape, and Brainwashing (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009); and Clarence Adams, An American Dream: The Life of an African American Soldier and POW Who Spent Twelve Years in Communist China, ed. Della Adams and Lewis H. Carlson (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2007).
Daniel Pick and Ian Christie
it was not just a term applied to the military adversaries of the U.S., those other peoples, supposedly more vulnerable to brainwashing, living under despotic regimes, but a way of capturing a sense of alarming fragility in “us,” or at least in some of “us.” So the first context we need to bear in mind in thinking about the take-up of this idea would be the early Cold War, and the particular military difficulties of the U.S. in the Korean War. But the fear of brainwashing was also anticipated in earlier debates about the limits of human reason and the power of one person, or agency, to possess the mind of another person; there was nothing new in 1950, after all, about the fear that hypnosis could subvert the free will both of individuals and crowds. In the 1950s the fears of brainwashing were still infused with ideas from the interwar period, when various theories about the mass psychology of fascism were advanced in western thought. Some commentators looked at earlier notorious films, such as Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph des Willens, as a record of the power of a charismatic tyrant to brainwash the masses, even to reduce people to virtual automata, and of the power of propagandistic cinema itself to partake in this process of mind control.3 IC: Since the Cold War was seen as a difficult struggle to win by conventional military means, did a new arsenal of psychological weapons emerge? DP: I think so. On the one hand, there is the story line, for some perhaps a genuine fear, of Communist leaders successfully orchestrating schemes to possess their own populations totally, and to infiltrate and corrode the minds of their enemies. All this was powerfully symbolised by the idea of the American GIs being brainwashed, and, more generally, of POWs not only as captive bodies, but as potentially manipulable minds as well as experimental guinea pigs. It would be interesting to trace to what extent such ideas were already apparent in earlier conflicts, perhaps back into the nineteenth century. The fear of brainwashing, and most especially the ease with which soldiers might be “turned,” made to question the rationale for fighting, or identifying with the patriotic cause, and led various commentators to suggest that what is required now is a new, more sophisticated attempt to strengthen the combatants’ mind against brainwashing, to build a new kind of resilience into troops. Hence, in some instances, advice on, or even mock exercises in incarceration; if you were caught, this is what it will be like, and this is how you can resist. But if one context of brainwashing discourse was defensive – concern what “they” could do to “us,” be it in captivity, or even in our own homes, through print, or across the air waves – another objective was offensive: the aspiration to use new psycho techniques in our interrogation processes and modes of communication, building, for instance, on the various psychological as well as drug experiments that had already been conducted on POWs during the 1940s, and to refine still further the concerted propaganda and counter-propaganda efforts mounted during the World War II years. What has also been increasingly researched lately is the once hidden post-war history of psychological experimentation in mental hospitals where the effects of sleep deprivation, drugs, or electroconvulsive therapy were explored. Sometimes, of course, these experiments 3 Leni Riefenstahl, dir., Triumph des Willens (Reichspropagandaleitung der NSDAP, 1935).
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were conducted with therapeutic goals and aspirations, no matter how misguided they may seem now, but such experiments were also supposed to provide, both directly and indirectly, a form of knowledge with presumed applications to psychological warfare and intelligence work. The notorious experiments of psychiatrists in this period, for instance the inquiries of Dr. Donald Ewen Cameron at McGill University in Montréal, are now well explored; but he was far from alone even at that time.4 The fictions of mind control took off on both sides in the Cold War from rumours and reports of actual human experimentation, but sometimes perhaps the stories themselves inspired experimentation within the human sciences. The talk of brainwashing or even “menticide” became part of the toxic political climate of the Cold War, a language that also quickly played into what Richard Hofstadter famously called the “paranoid strain” in American political thought.5 The most famous cinematic exploration of the theme, at least in Hollywood, was perhaps John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate, but there would be other films from the 1950s that also play on, or perhaps send up, the fear of total psychological or even physical invasion of the other, for instance Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers.6 Such films were nicely poised between exercises in, and satires about, 1950s moral panic. It is interesting to consider how far such cin ematic tales resonated with debates going on in Washington about Soviet, Maoist, or other techniques, and, at the same time, how some of these post-war films also signalled their awareness of the experiments conducted by the U.S. and its allies, funded frequently by the intelligence services, seeking to produce a more reliable science of interrogation. The most lurid rumours about brainwashing seem to have been quickly discredited – a critical literature soon challenged popular assumptions and portrayals – but the looser idea that indoctrination methods were now the subject of science just as much, as they were the propensity of religion or of cults, never went away. IC: But, apparently, it did not exist in a vacuum, because this was a period of moral panics. There was a pervasive sense of things at work on the mind that we don’t understand, as well as the narrower belief that these are tools of a conspiracy, for instance a Communist one. In your work on the psychological struggle against Nazism you showed that there had been a lot going on, which was not in the public domain, but “back room.” The World War II had been seen as a “clean war” against a dictator, but we now know it was more complex, and the 1950s was seen as a period of renewed struggle. DP: Yes, the idea of a Manichean global battle for the mind can be traced over a much longer time frame; certainly within the twentieth century such terms of reference precede 4 For reference see an online article about the history of sensory deprivation, Michael Bond’s “How Extreme Isolation Warps the Mind,” BBC Future, May 14, 2014, http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140514-howextreme-isolation-warps-minds. For an original reference on McGill experiments see Woodburn Heron, “The Pathology of Boredom,” Scientific American 196, no. 1 (1957), 52–56. 5 See Richard Hofstadter, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” Harper’s, Nov 1964: 77–86. 6 John Frankenheimer, dir., The Manchurian Candidate (United Artists, 1962); Don Siegel, dir., Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Walter Wanger Pictures, 1956).
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the Cold War. Wars conceived as conflicts between “civilization” and “barbarism.” It is striking, across both world wars, how the mental state of the soldier became such a prominent concern. The question of the mental health – and mental breakdown – of soldiers, both privates and officers, was, of course, a major issue in World War I, centred on the crisis of so-called shellshock, and discussion about the aetiology and experiments in the treatment of war neurosis that, as many historians have shown, continued into World War II. Psychiatry was important in both world wars but its role also expanded: not only in the treatment of soldiers but also during the 1940s it had a role in morale building at home, when civilians were faced with bombing. Psychiatry also featured in new ways of assessing, treating, and explaining the mentality of the enemy. There was a large spectrum of work of this type, some of which, to be sure, was crudely reductive. But the more sophisticated commentators on the so-called Nazi mind, during the 1930s and 1940s, sought to combine insights from psychology, or, more specifically, from Freudian thought, with ideas derived from historical, economic, anthropological, or sociological work, in order, so it was hoped at least, to build new, more nuanced theories of national character, or, conversely, on some occasions to challenge the idea that there was any such thing.7 There was continuing interest in the interwar decades and the 1940s in identifying features of the Japanese or German mind, for instance. And you could trace the ambition to identify the anthropology or ethnology of a given people or race back to earlier times – take, for example, those diverse Victorian ideas about the innate peculiarity of the Prussians, who were understood by some prominent commentators to be almost a biological entity apart, the product of a peculiar racial inheritance. Much commentary in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries focused upon the supposedly biologically inherited qualities that constituted individuals, races, or peoples. But there was never a consensus on such matters. At any event, after 1945, there was a notable shift in mainstream liberal commentary in the western world, away from the idea of generalizable national character, and especially racial character. It became commonplace to focus on what is shared across peoples, to adopt a more universal kind of thinking in which democracy might be nurtured anywhere, and set it against the authoritarian or fascist type of thinking that is presumed to exist, potentially, in every society as a kind of regression or atavistic propensity that, under certain circumstances, might be triggered. Instead of a simple “us” and “them,” various social science surveys of the post-war period explored the spectrum of fascist attitudes, for instance in the cel ebrated “F” Scale developed by Theodor Adorno and others at the University of California in Berkeley during their research for the book The Authoritarian Personality, a landmark text published in 1950.8 There were myriad post-war theories, in which politics was considered in terms of health and illness, with Nazi psychopathology – the wish to exterminate, to project, to split, to demonise, when overwhelmed by certain kinds of political and psychological experience – seen as a general, not a geographically or temporally 7 See Daniel Pick, The Pursuit of the Nazi Mind: Hitler, Hess, and the Analysts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012). 8 Theodor W. Adorno, Else Frenkel-Brunswik, Daniel Levinson, and Nevitt Sanford, The Authoritarian Personality (New York: Harper and Row, 1950).
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restricted danger. This was the kind of thinking that seemed to inform notably not only Adorno’s The Authoritarian Personality but the work of all Frankfurt School personnel. George Orwell wrote interestingly about this, too, for instance in an 1941 essay on fascism that centred on what Orwell took to be the naïve views about Germany expressed by H. G. Wells. Orwell wanted to focus attention on the mind and the self, and he suggested that nobody could understand what was happening in Germany without a touch of the fascist within, and some recognition of that. He complained that Wells was too sanguine about “progress,” and did not understand the modern world or the nature of the psyche; he did not grasp the motives involved in Nazism. What Wells didn’t understand, Orwell says, is that we have to start from an exploration of the fascist streak in ourselves to understand Hitler, that we cannot just look at the other.9 Orwell was perhaps thinking of his own anti-Semitism here, or at least wanting to avoid polarised thinking in which only, say, the Germans were regarded as capable of succumbing to the darker or more murderous emotions. So in a variety of texts in this period we can see there is an attempt to grapple with how minds are taken over by insidious ideologies, which suggests an interaction between general emotional propensities, benign or, more widely shared, pathological states of mind, and the particular contingent circumstances that can prevail in a given economy, state, or cultural polity. This is very different from the kind of assumption about Germany as incorrigibly and peculiarly ill that was set out in the writings of a 1940s American clinician, Richard M. Brickner, in a book entitled Is Germany Incurable?10 The English psychoanalyst and paediatrician Donald Winnicott said something very similar to Orwell when attempting to avoid such polarised thinking in his various writings on democracy recognising it as a kind of psychic as well as social achievement (always somewhat precarious) in this decade too. Winnicott recognised that Nazism had to be fought and defeated but he did not imagine the end of the Third Reich was the end of the matter itself. For Winnicott the framework was psychoanalytic, for Orwell it was not – he was not using a psychoanalytic framework at all, even though his comments resonate with the idea, most elaborated in this period by psychoanalysis, of an inner world that has to be understood in any adequate analysis of politics today. Meanwhile, various American commentators in the 1930s and 1940s were also developing theories of the fascism “within” – both within the mind, and within a group or a polity – as a constant threat to all democracies. States as well as psyches could be infected, or even wholly overwhelmed by the tides of intolerance and hatred. Philip Roth made this “what if” scenario about the fascist take-over that could easily occur at home famous much later in his novel The Plot against America, but it can be found in a much earlier novel, Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here.11 IC: And even earlier, in Jack London’s 1908 The Iron Heel. But while this seems to be a fairly constant theme in fiction, where else does it turn up after World War II? 9 George Orwell, “Wells, Hitler and the World State,” Horizon, Aug 1941: 133–38. 10 Richard M. Brickner, Is Germany Incurable? (New York: J. B. Lippincott, 1943). 11 See Philip Roth, The Plot against America (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004); Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here: A Novel (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran and Company, 1935).
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DP: One development of such ideas occurs with Stanley Milgram’s much publicised experiments in obedience which were written about in the early 1960s, and later in Milgram’s book in the 1970s.12 What made the experiments so notable was the fact that the volunteers were American: this was research not done in Germany, but in New Haven. Earlier, there was the empirical work, produced in conjunction with the Frankfurt School. I have already mentioned The Authoritarian Personality for which Adorno and his close associates provided most of the theory, whilst the Berkeley group provided much of the data. But Adorno, Erich Fromm, Max Horkheimer, and a number of others in the Frankfurt School group had been exploring such questions very extensively since the 1930s, if not earlier. Of course, they primarily sought to identify the particular features that had prevailed in German history and society, but their focus of concern was not in these studies so much the irrevocability of a people’s “national character,” as the explo ration of the vulnerability of all democratic processes to fascist thought and states of mind, and, in this case, as later with Milgram’s experiments, a demonstration that fascist or totalitarian dangers were geographically unconfined. Adorno was accused of focusing only on the far right, and not thinking about Communism in his famous study. But in much of the psycho-political literature on human suggestion, obedience and brainwashing in this period the backdrop comes to be “totalitarianism,” a form of polity, but also, it was argued, mind-set that could as easily go to one extreme as the other. By contrast, liberalism was all too easily seen as homologous to the sane mind, with internal checks and balances, critical capacity, openness to doubt, etc. This has been well captured in a recent book by Jamie Cohen-Cole on how the idea of the “open mind” was also in effect mobilised; meanwhile multi-disciplinarity was extolled as an academic ideal, precisely as a counterpoint to the notion of the closed, totalitarian mind, or system.13 But I would like to ask you, Ian, at this point, where you think cinema picks up that trend before The Manchurian Candidate and how you understand this notion of the clinician and/or demagogue who controls the mind of the other in the early history of cinema. IC: Well, cinema is very alert to psychoanalysis from an early stage and the drives and susceptibilities that potentially lie within all of us. The 1940s is the era of an intensely psychological, even psychoanalytic, cinema in the U.S. Quite apart from Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane, which tries to unpick retrospectively the life and mind of a rabble-rousing press baron, the prime example would be Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound.14 In a way it is a kind of remake of The Cabinet 12 The Milgram experiment on obedience to authority was a series of experiments in social psychology carried out at Yale University in 1961 by Stanley Milgram. These measured the willingness of study participants to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts conflicting with their consciences. Milgram first described his research in the article “Behavioral Study of Obedience” published in the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 67, no. 4 (Oct 1963): 371–78, and later discussed his findings in greater depth in his book Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View (New York: Harper and Row, 1974). 13 Jamie Cohen-Cole, The Open Mind: Cold War Politics and the Sciences of Human Mind (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2014). 14 Orson Welles, dir., Citizen Kane (RKO Radio Pictures; Mercury Productions, 1941); Alfred Hitchcock, dir., Spellbound (Selznick International Pictures, 1945).
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of Dr. Caligari, with the man orchestrating all the confusion finally revealed as the acting director of the clinic.15 The final shot is of his hand holding a gun that he turns round to shoot himself – which also means us, the audience. That is a very interesting moment in the popular deployment of psychoanalysis, hinting at the question: what is hidden within us all? There is also a very interesting film from the late 1940s, Edmund Goulding’s Nightmare Alley, a bleak film noir based on a very dark pulp novel by William Gresham, with a central character who is, among other things, first an accomplice and then a victim of a rogue society psychiatrist, who is recording everyone’s sessions.16 This would come back during the McCarthy period – the fear that people were exposing themselves through the act of seeing an analyst – but it is already present in the 1940s, although without any overt political dimension. DP: When I looked at some critical commentaries on Freud in Britain in the 1920s, I found the argument that psychoanalysis threatens morality and takes away free will. It may seem to be enhancing the patient’s capacity to think freely, but the fear was that it actually eroded that. Earlier, in a different way, this had been an argument used against Darwin; that his theory was immoral, representing people as at the mercy of forces beyond their control, but by virtue of the theory itself, allowing a kind of moral self-exculpation, a denial of personal responsibility. Freud, of course, wanted the patient to be involved in the exploration with the analyst in order to make people more mindful of what is there, but his critics feared that it was always operating through the relationship to a charismatic person, and applied it both to the therapeutic encounter and to politics. IC: The theme of Nigel Balchin’s 1947 novel Mine Own Executioner is the moral dilemma an analyst faces when he unlocks the mind of a disturbed ex-POW. What should he do on an everyday practical level, quite apart from what he should do analytically, at this dangerous junction? In this case, the analyst gets it wrong, with catastrophic results.17 It seems to be further evidence of a widespread 1940s culture of psychoanalysis finding itself put to the test in extreme conditions, many of them created by the war. DP: You mentioned Spellbound, and I was intrigued seeing it again recently. There is a lightly sketched back-story: the “spellbound” doctor, played by Gregory Peck, has problems going back to childhood, but he has also been a soldier. A mixture of early history and later violent experience, it seemed, could play terrible havoc with the mind. Another film I am interested in at the moment is Lewis Allen’s Suddenly, which anticipates The Manchurian Candidate in some respects – at the centre of its plot is the risk of presidential assassination. It also has a back-story of a soldier who is scarred from childhood, then fights in the U.S. army in the 1940s, and ends up even more damaged.18 That sense of the 15 Robert Wiene, dir, Das Kabinet des Dr. Caligari (Decla-Bioscop, 1920). 16 Edmund Goulding, dir., Nightmare Alley (Twentieth Century Fox, 1947). 17 See Nigel Balchin, Mine Own Executioner (London: Collins, 1945). Balchin’s novel was filmed by Anthony Kimmins in 1947 for Alexander Korda’s London Film Productions, with Burgess Meredith, Dulcie Gray, and Kieron Moore. 18 Lewis Allen, dir., Suddenly (Libra Productions, 1954).
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damaged veteran, which became even more central in the Vietnam era, was very much a part of the culture of the 1940s and 1950s. There was a documentary by John Huston that sought to lay bare the nature of this psychiatric vulnerability in the troops, Let There Be Light, which was to be effectively sidelined for years, perhaps because it revealed the human frailty of the soldier and showed the enormous psychiatric damage that he could suffer.19 So the spotlight is put back on our vulnerability, not just on the German question, which seems to be something that Hitchcock picks up on in other films, too, like Saboteur and Lifeboat, both made during the war, which in different ways seem to complicate any simple Manichean division between “us” and “them,” or any reassuring assumption of some kind of final moral victory over fascism.20 Still/poster for the low-budget Suddenly (1954), a film on the theme of presidential assassination that preceded the betterknown The Manchurian Candidate (1962), and starred Frank Sinatra as a disturbed vet.
IC: This is a real preoccupation of Hitchcock’s, refracted through all his fictions of the 1940s. Just think of Rope, where two characters have adopted a Nietzschean position of being “beyond morality” and set out to flaunt it by concealing a murder under everyone’s noses. It is really a very political film; although it does not have any overt engagement with psychoanalysis, I think it is deeply informed by Hitchcock’s fascination with it – as indeed is Under Capricorn.21 In fact, it’s hard to think of any film of Hitchcock’s in the 1940s which is not concerned in some way with the ethical implications of psychoanalysis: what our moral responsibility is if we know the darkest secrets of the mind. DP: And we have this twin theme of psychoanalysis and fascism playing out in cinema again and again. Another film from this period that is striking in this regard is Orson 19 John Huston, dir., Let There Be Light (U.S Army Pictorial Services, 1946). 20 Alfred Hitchcock, dir., Saboteur (Universal Pictures, 1942); Alfred Hitchcock, dir., Lifeboat (Twentieth Century Fox, 1944) 21 Alfred Hitchcock, dir., Rope (Warner Bros.; Transatlantic Pictures, 1948); Alfred Hitchcock, dir., Under Capricorn (Transatlantic Pictures, 1949).
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Welles’s The Stranger, where a hidden fascist in a small American town has acquired a new identity and the film focuses on his unmasking.22 Again, this is but the tip of the iceberg: all sorts of stories took up the theme of women or men unwittingly marrying someone who turns out to be a closet Nazi. IC: Most of the films we have been considering are American, but there is one British film that centres on the experimental aspect of brainwashing, Basil Dearden’s The Mind Benders, made one year after The Manchurian Candidate, in 1963. I think I have read that the writer, James Kennaway, already knew about North American experiments, which are alluded to in a title at the beginning of the film, before he came to write a script that links sensory deprivation with the capacity to become a traitor, and stirs into this a rather chilling tale of marital alienation. So this is a film that really comes from the late 1950s, and the recurrent question about the scientist who has committed suicide and initiated an investigation is whether he is a zombie or a traitor. The whole story turns on this prodigious effort to have him reclassified as a zombie rather than a traitor, even though he is associated with Communists and peace campaigners. Has his morality been stolen from him by his involvement with self-administered experiments?23 DP: What would be interesting to research, if we think about the period from the inter-war to the post-war, would be the comparison and contrast of the representations of indoctrination, and the visions of the mind in different settings. Film in this period often seems to explore borderline ambiguous figures, perhaps double or triple agents, people who cross the line from loyalty to treachery, or perhaps back the other way, and we are often left in doubt whose side they are on. But I suspect there would be different working assumptions in different cultures at different periods. In the U.S., there tends to be a vision of mind in the middle decades of the century derived in substantial part from Freud, that is to say, assuming hidden depths, repression, the constant workings of the unconscious, the force of guilt, and sometimes lacerating reproaches derived from the super-ego, the assumption of an Oedipus complex, and so on. Yet in other cinemas at this time the working assumptions might be very different. It would be interesting to know, for instance, how far Pavlovian theories featured in this period in Soviet cinema. What I am suggesting here is that the frame of reference in thinking about conditioning, or brainwashing, or intra-psychic conflict and the nature of the self might vary quite a lot even in the same time frame, depending on which national culture we are looking at. IC: There is obviously a general surge of interest in psychiatry during the 19th century, largely located in Europe.24 But in the 20th century the focus switches to America, which was almost invaded by psychoanalysis from the 1930s onwards, when it became absolutely central to American culture in a way that never really happened in Europe. Psychoanalysis actually made a 22 Orson Welles, dir., The Stranger (International Pictures, RKO, 1946). 23 Basil Dearden, dir., The Mind Benders (Michael Relph Productions, 1963). 24 The Oxford English Dictionary gives the first use of the word “psychiatry” in English as 1848, while the Royal College of Psychiatry cites Professor Johann Christian Reil as the coiner of the term Psychiatrie in German in 1808.
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quite slow and uneven progress in Europe, even in France, which enabled Jacques Lacan to gain such a wide impact in the 1950s, after his less familiar inter-war surrealist period. But in America, the popularision of psychoanalysis resulted in large numbers of people actually understanding themselves through it. Salvador Dali, who made the cover of Time magazine in 1936, was a surrealist, but came with a lot of Freudian baggage, and this may have been part of the reason why Hitchcock was so determined to have him work on Spellbound. As we have observed, Hitchcock had become fascinated by psychoanalytic culture, but we do not know whether he did so in a skeptical or cynical way, just cashing on its popularity. DP: It may have been a playful way. IC: It certainly was playful, but it was perhaps deeper than that. No one really knows much about Hitchcock’s inner life, because he was very successful in hiding that, but if we see the amount of effort and ingenuity that he put into exploring different registers of psychoanalytic culture in America, it was clearly important to him. DP: One of the themes that is related to brainwashing is “momism,” an excessive dependence on mothers. Certainly there is much discussion about the importance of mothering, and this is also powerfully evident in cinema, of course. You get the fear that mothers might overwhelm or even destroy their children through an over-intense bond in its most psychotic form in Hitchcock, especially in Psycho. There is not a father in sight there, but the ferocious murderous mother in the protagonist’s mind pervades the film: this could perhaps be seen as Hitchcock’s oblique reference to the sadistic and terrifying archaic maternal superego locked “upstairs.”25 The idea of the demonic mother also seems to be a recurrent motif in other films of the 1950s and 1960s. Certainly we often find a link with damaged or missing fathers, too, but what comes to be represented centre-stage is an over-powerful and sometimes quite murderous mother-son relationship. “Momism” seems to have been a backlash against the kind of psychoanalytic and psychotherapeutic literature of the period that laid so much emphasis on the crucial importance of good mothering. In some ways, there had indeed been a notable shift in psychoanalytic theory, with the growing focus upon the mother-child relationship, in Melanie Klein, for instance.26 In the U.S., think of the significance of the maternal role set out in the advice manuals produced by the famous Dr. Spock. But this leads again to various critical reflections and counter-arguments, for example, to the fear of the mother’s boy, who is brainwashed, morally perverted, or both. Sexual confusions, or diagnoses of homosexuality were often laid largely, even exclusively, at the mother’s door, as, for example, in Tennessee Williams’s 1958 play Suddenly, Last Summer and its 1959 film adaptation, in which Katherine Hepburn plays a dominating and self-deceiving mother from hell.27 25 Alfred Hitchcock, dir., Psycho (Universal, 1960). 26 See, for example, Melanie Klein, The Psycho-Analysis of Children, trans. Alix Strachey, revised by H. A. Thorner (London: Hogarth Press; Institute of Psycho-analysis, 1975). However, her Die Psychoanalyse des Kindes was published as early as 1932. 27 Joseph L. Mankiewicz, dir., Suddenly, Last Summer (Columbia Pictures, 1959).
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The period that sees women claiming new rights and new social and economic roles is peppered with fears that mothers are taking over. All of this is captured in a marvel ously over-the-top performance by Angela Lansbury, in The Manchurian Candidate, as the nightmare matriarch, caught up in a bizarre incestuous relationship with her son, who reduces the son’s castrated figure to a virtual automaton even more effectively than the Chinese brainwashers. The two themes, emasculation and political indoctrination, were seen as closely connected. Many films in this genre seem to be about the vexed relationship of the sexes and the problems of post-war family structure. You get it, too, in the warnings of the Frankfurt School: an anxiety that there is no longer a proper father role and the argument that this loss of paternal authority will lead people into the attractions of advertising or fascism, ersatz versions of the father, not to real emancipation. IC: You must have looked into the origins of “momism” as a popular fear. I do not know, but it seems to me that the other face of anxiety about the absent father – the crumbling of paternal authority – is leaving the mother to assert her will over the child and eventually the adult. This is distinctively American; at least I cannot think of any other post-World War II culture where there is such a fear of “momism.” DP: There is the fear and then there is its satirized analysis, with The Manchurian Candidate both portraying and sending up the fear. Despite the great blown-up images of Stalin and Mao, the film is as much a satire about McCarthyite America and what is going on at home. I agree that it does seem to be a particularly prominent feature of American culture and thought. Another film I mentioned earlier, Suddenly with Frank Sinatra, had also taken up this theme. Here, a war widow who is over-protective of her son will not allow him to play with guns. Then there is a sheriff in the town, wooing her, but unsuccessfully. He tells her in no uncertain terms that she is fatally damaging her son by protecting him from guns: the boy, it is argued, needs to learn about the violence in the world in order to resist it. And then there is a war-damaged veteran, played by Sinatra, who is all too cavalier about guns. The film deals with the processing of the generation of war-damaged veterans who come back, the actual dead, and the damaged sons of post-war America. But what’s interesting is that all of this comes in the aftermath of those psychiatric diagnoses of Germany that had gained such traction at the end of the war, both in the United States and in the United Kingdom, in which fascism was seen to be bound up with the monstrously over-valued authoritarian and sadistic fathers, whereas in the U.S. in the 1950s, the emphasis fell often enough upon the over-valued mother. Not long afterwards came a feminist literature – Betty Friedan’s 1963 The Feminine Mystique is a case in point – in which the woman and the mother are understood as the brainwash victims par excellence, rather than the brainwash instigators, as they were in The Manchurian Candidate.28 IC: Fascinating. And, of course, the rest of us become the more or less passive, or puzzled audiences as these things are played out in popular culture. Hollywood has become the centre of the 28 Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique (New York: W. W. Norton, 1963).
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world’s entertainment industry, and it is spitting out all these extraordinary paranoid fictions which we’re lapping up. Even though we were not actually participating in that culture, we somehow understood what they were showing us; so we became the “secondary audience,” not really experiencing any of these concerns at first hand. DP: Yes, and the fascination with surveillance and doubleness has always been part of the Cold War context so many of us rather actively enjoy – in spy stories set in the ever more powerful security state that emerges after 1945 in the U.S. and beyond, with vast expenditure on a permanent apparatus of intelligence, military planning, and an infrastructure of permanent readiness. Cinema and literature have provided endless resources to explore or just savour this vision of existential struggle with, or impotence in the face of, a permanent, shadowy invisible world of government. This is why our required perception of the films is often based upon the idea of a radical disjunction not only between the conscious and unconscious mind, but also between the fictions, or “decorative” layers of government, and the deeper, more powerful, sometimes even all-powerful sub-structures – on the one side, there is the democratic face of a visible government in the West, but on the other, there is that vast metonymic figure we call “the CIA,” the secret sphere, an accredited but also disavowed constant authority that we sanction because of our wish for security, but we also know that it may also end up fatally eroding our freedom. This constant play-off between the idea of freedom and security is taken up over and over in Cold War films: the recurring plotline concerns an “us” and a “them” based on polities (the Chinese, Nazi Germans, or Russians as the “them”), but the other “them” is this secret state of breakdown, perversion, or identification with the aggressor, located within “us.” IC: It also becomes the new domain of popular television in the 1960s, with the proliferation of series which become its mainstay, many of which centre on alternative structures of surveillance and control, play upon our anxieties about world conspiracies, and form a shadowy state within our own shores. Of course, the conspiracies are invented to justify the perpetuation of such shadowy organisations, as if we wanted or needed them. DP: Exactly. Going back to the 1950s, the brainwashing scare is also very useful, because it helps justify a massive security apparatus, even though brainwashing can also be turned into a weapon of critique against the overweening secret state, or into fictions of democracy and freedom. And that vision of total control did become a feature of television fiction, especially in The Prisoner.29 IC: One of the things you might consider looking at is the extent to which it appears in popular TV series besides The Prisoner, such as The Avengers (1961–1969), Mission Impossible (1966–1973), The Invaders (1967–1968), even Doctor Who (1963–1989). It is astonishing, how 29 The Prisoner was a British television series of seventeen episodes that ran during 1967–1968, and has since acquired a cult status. Conceived by and starring Patrick McGoohan, it combined the genres of spy fiction, psychological drama, and sci-fi.
Hidden in Plain Sight
much of the popular imagination they are taking up. Of course, they are not seen as even remotely threatening, but as playful, even though they present a view of the world that is entirely governed by unseen forces. DP: It would be interesting to think as well about how earlier fictions and myths come to be revisited, or reconfigured by Cold War culture into new stories, images, and, even more influentially, used by film and television. Some of the iconic works of modernist literature gain a new purpose here. I was thinking, for instance, of Kafka. But one thing that strikes me about the television series that you mentioned is the question of how far television itself, or at least certain kinds of passive and excessive spectatorship, sitting in front of “the box,” may be cast as an object of concern in such stories. Popular films sometimes seem to take up this rather arch relationship to the apparatus of the film, showing us the camera, “the box,” or “the screen” within their own frame. Perhaps there is a reference here to the way high modernism creeps into these stories, to be found in those fleeting images, so easy to miss. In The Manchurian Candidate the camera pans over various novels that sit on the bed, including, if I recall it right, works by Joyce and Kafka, just before the famous dream sequence, where Sinatra (as Major Marco) revisits the horrors of the brainwashing he has been subjected to. But what I was trying to get at was how some of these Cold War film and television explorations of totalitarian thought control also refer to the dangers of their own forms as potential means of brainwashing. If you think of The Manchurian Candidate, this actually includes television as part of the apparatus that a McCarthyite politician is able to exploit, a picture of everyone now hooked on television, so you can sell anything. This is even more strongly flagged in Richard Condon’s 1959 novel that preceded the film. Vance Packard in The Hidden Persuaders famously points to the power of perpetual commercial and political brainwashing in the West, in which the much vaunted subliminal image passes as a message faster than you can constantly register. Packard also dwelled on the power of advertising, which provides a constant and ever more sophisticated bombardment of human minds.30 IC: The old fear of the subliminal, especially of subliminal advertising, is very much an anxiety of that period. DP: What is also intriguing here is the idea of being totally possessed by images or sounds from outside that evade or bypass your consciousness, but might be quite consciously controlled by someone else – here we are back to the theme of paranoia. The stories about brainwashing are all about our subjection to infiltrated messages. What is so powerful about them is how they capture something of our most paranoid anxieties and give them certain legitimacy: something is being “put into me,” and I am defenceless to stop it. But I think there is also a post-World War II literature that is more subtle than that, which explores the capacity to know, and not know at the same time, how we are being duped or taken over, and at the same time our willingness to compliantly, lazily, or even 30 See Vance Packard, The Hidden Persuaders.
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pleasurably succumb. At the one end of the spectrum there are the tales of complete and utter takeover, in a world of the living dead, populated by mere simulacra of people, now possessed – this is the terrain of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. But then there is a figure who is both victim and agent, patient and analyst, criminal and commentator on the criminality and the pathology, blindly enacting, even whilst knowing that this is what his “I” is doing. This is, for example, the terrain of Michael Powell’s film Peeping Tom which, amongst the many things it suggests, draws the idea of the damaged child, and the murderer who identifies with the victim whilst also making an argument about the dangers of cinema and voyeurism, putting viewers of the film into a constantly unsettling position.31 This state of knowing and not knowing at the same time was identified by Adorno in his 1951 essay “Freudian Theory and the Pattern of Fascist Propaganda,” where he looks back at what has happened in Germany, thinking of Freud’s essay on group psychology. He says that if people thought about it for a moment, even the most zealous Nazi would realise that it was all a sham, but there was a kind of suspended disbelief, something more complex going on than brainwashing as commonly understood – people were willing not to know, holding themselves actively in a state of stupefaction even as the knew that they did not believe in the cause that their stupefied selves endorsed. If they did admit that they knew it, the whole ideological or perhaps even psychological edifice would collapse. That is why at some level they chose to go along with the madness of the ideology, knowing that it was not plausible. This is different to the notion of the zombie or the automaton, or even of the frenzied masses completely taken over by a hysterical infatuation. No, Adorno says, everyone knew, yet everyone did not know, and I think that relates to cinema: we know about the apparatus, and yet we get into a state that is almost dream-like, not hypnotism but some kind of complex internal bargain with ourselves to be enthralled by the screen.32 IC: I wonder if there is a parallel to that in the literature by ex- or post-Communists. We can think of Arthur Koestler, for instance, but I wonder how much of what must be a considerable amount of material has been compiled or translated.33 Or perhaps it was just too painful, like Costa-Gavras’s least-often shown film, L’aveu (The Confession), about the torture of a Czech Communist minister at the behest of his former comrades.34 DP: I have not seen that film by Costa-Gavras, but your reference to Koestler is very suggestive here. I recently re-read Darkness at Noon, and he is good at introducing the contortions of logic, and twisted interpersonal and intrapsychic storytelling in the process 31 Michael Powell, dir., Peeping Tom (Michael Powell [Theatre] Productions, 1960). 32 See Theodor Adorno, “Freudian Theory and the Pattern of Fascist Propaganda,” in The Essential Frankfurt School Reader, ed. Andrew Arato and Eike Gebhardt (1978; New York: Continuum, 1985), 118–37. 33 There must be considerably more than the collection The God That Failed, ed. R. H. S. Crossman (New York: Harper, 1949), which included essays by six disillusioned ex-Communists: Louis Fischer, André Gide, Arthur Koestler, Ignazio Silone, Stephen Spender, and Richard Wright. 34 Costa-Gavras, L’aveu (Les Films Corona, 1970). This was based on the memoir of Artur London, viceminister of foreign affairs in Czechoslovakia before his arrest.
Hidden in Plain Sight
of interrogation and persuasion. Lurking behind it were, of course, the Moscow show trials between 1936 and 1938 and the question of what means had been used to secure confessions from innocent political opponents. It is interesting how often this larger story about brainwashing, Communism, the West, double speak, mind control, etc., is telescoped into just a couple locked in a room – a very personal encounter, two people face to face, but in very unequal situations from each other. The writing in Darkness at Noon dwells on how the most intimate forms of mind control are secured: these scenes evoke something both terrifyingly impersonal and very intimate all at once.35 IC: Hence, no doubt, your particular fascination with, and insight into brainwashing which you can approach both as a practicing analyst and as a historian. But I think what you have opened up for all of us is a range of perspectives on this as a kind of “skeleton key” that unlocks large tracts of post-World War II popular culture, and shows how intertwined political and psychic fears motivated so much of this. It will be fascinating for those in many areas of cultural and media history to see how this is unpacked in your larger “Hidden Persuaders” project.36
35 See Arthur Koestler, Darkness at Noon, trans. Daphne Hardy (1941; London: Heron Books, 1970). 36 Daniel Pick is leading a major research project at Birkbeck College on aspects of brainwashing, “Hidden Persuaders,” funded by the Wellcome Trust. See http://www.bpc.org.uk/cold-war-and%E2%80%98hidden-persuaders%E2%80%99-interview-daniel-pick?page=5.
5 Visiting a City, Watching a Film* Roger Odin Everything has already been written about the relationship between cities and cinema: that the birth of cinema was contemporary with the urban revolution; that cinema buildings are an aesthetic, economic, social, or political issue in the urban landscape and, more widely, in public space; that the city is inextricably linked to cinema in the social imaginary. There are the mythic original cities of cinema (Lyon where the Lumière brothers invented the cinématographe), entire cities dedicated to cinema (Los Angeles, the Cinelandia of Ramón Gómez de la Serna1), imaginary cities such as those in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, JeanLuc Godard’s Alphaville, or Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, and real cities more or less reinvented on screen. We know that cinema belongs to the city and the city belongs to the cinema. What strikes me particularly is the strong similarity between the act of visiting a city and that of seeing a film. I see it in the beginning of Dziga Vertov’s Chelovek s kino apparatom (The Man with a Movie Camera, 1929), which places as a prelude to the entry into the city itself images of an empty cinema, a symbol of this analogy.2 To visit a city, or see a film, is to enter a world or, more accurately, “to produce” a world, a “diegesis,” as the film theorist would say. In both cases, the viewer and the visitor function as enunciators who build this world from the signs provided. Michel de Certeau, in the first volume of L’invention du quotidien (1980 in English as The Practice of Everyday Life, 1984), described as “pedestrian enunciation” the series of acts by which the walker actualizes some structures among those offered him by the city, but also turns them into something else, moves them, and even invents new ones.3 The same happens even if the visit is by taxi and not on foot; a particularly amusing example of this enunciative process is the tour of Paris that Uncle Gabriel gives his niece Zazie early in Zazie dans le métro (Zazie in the Metro), the 1960 film by Louis Malle based on the eponymous novel by Raymond Queneau.4 While appearing to follow a linear path, the taxi goes several times around the same monument, the church of Saint Vincent de Paul, which Gabriel and his friend present successively as the Pantheon, the Madeleine, the Reuilly barracks, and Les Invalides. Every city tour more or less follows this model: to travel around a city is always to some degree to invent it. To watch a film, pragmatics tells us, is the same. The American anthropologist Sol Worth uses the term “attributional strategy” to describe this way of producing meaning. To illustrate this procedure, he cites a film-read* Roger Odin’s chapter first appeared in French, in a slightly different form, as “Visiter une ville, voir un film,” in Villes cinématographiques: Ciné-lieux, no. 10 of Théorème, ed. Laurent Creton and Kristian Feigelson (Paris: Presse Sorbonne Nouvelle, 2007), 213–19. Translated from the French by Ian Christie. 1 See the French and English translations of Ramón Gómez de la Serna’s original Spanish Cinelandia (1923), a sketch of Los Angeles and its filmmaking district: Ciné-ville, trans. Marcelle Auclair (Paris: Simon Kra, 1928); and Movieland, trans. Angel Flores (New York: Macaulay, 1930). 2 Dziga Vertov, dir., Chelovek s kino-apparatom (VUFKU, 1929). 3 See Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Rendall (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 98–103. 4 Louis Malle, dir., Zazie dans le métro (Nouvelles Éditions de Films, 1960).
ing test conducted with young children: even though the projected sequence obviously showed a doctor passing by an injured person without helping him, some children said they liked the doctor because he was good and looked after the victim. When asked to justify this assertion, the children answered that the character shown on the screen was a good person because he was a doctor and they thought the doctor was treating the injured person as this is what doctors usually do.5 In attributional strategies, the production of meaning is based on our knowledge (or supposed knowledge, or lack of knowledge) of the world, a knowledge that is often confused with the dominant cultural stereotypes; it also involves personal fantasies of the perceiving subject. Under these conditions, Worth concludes, from a film approached by a subject with an attributional strategy, “any meaning may be made.”6 The fact remains that both the city and film do everything possible to control the construction of the text by the visitor or viewer: in both cases, there is a space of signs intentionally designed to position whoever passes through it. We can say of the city what Francesco Casetti said about film in relation to its viewer: it forms its visitor, gives him a place, and makes him perform in a certain way: “we will consider how the film constructs its spectator, assigns the spectator a place, sets him upon a certain course.”7 Serge Daney observes that both film and the city need signals to function properly, and points out the difficulty that cinema, unlike painting, has in making visible spaces that lack strong marking, like the sky.8 Watching a film, like visiting a city, falls within the realm of discourse, and most often of narrative – films which do not, such as abstract experimental films, or educational documentaries, often have trouble finding audiences. The narrativity requires the presence of certain tags to guide the reader. “The sky is dangerous,” François Truffaut said, “because it obscures the story.”9 Just as a film plays the full range of figures offered by filmic language to take me where it wants, to make me laugh, cry, identify with a particular character, or conversely make me keep my distance from this or that speech, the city has strategically placed signage to control my behaviour and make me attend to its speech. According to Marco Polo in Italo Calvino’s Le città invisibili (Invisible Cities, 1972), the city of Tamara “says everything you must think, makes you repeat her discourse, and while you believe you are visiting Tamara you are only recording the names with which she defines herself and all her parts.”10 5 See Sol Worth, Studying Visual Communication, ed. Larry Gross (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1981), 143–44. Gross is the co-author of Chapter 5, “Symbolic Strategies,” which includes the case study cited here; see also Sol Worth and John Adair, Through Navajo Eyes: An Exploration in Film Communication and Anthropology (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1972). 6 Worth, Studying Visual Communication, 179. The quotation is from Chapter 7, “Pictures Can’t Say Ain’t,” originally published in Verses 12 (1975): 85–108. For another version see “Man Is Not a Bird,” Semiotica 23, no. 1–2 (1978): 5–28. 7 Francesco Casetti, D’un regard l’autre: Le film et son spectateur (Lyon: Presses Universitaires de Lyon, 1990), 30–31; in English as Inside the Gaze: The Fiction Film and Its Spectator, trans. Charles O’Brien (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999), 14. 8 See Serge Daney, “Ville-ciné et télé-banlieue” [City as film and TV as suburb] in Cités-Cinés [Cities-cinemas], ed. Lisa Grenier and Catherine Boulegue (Paris: Grande Halle-La Villette; Ramsay, 1987), 122. 9 Serge Daney, “Ville-ciné et télé-banlieue,” 122. Trans. Ian Christie. 10 Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, trans. William Weaver (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974), 14.
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To secure this attention, work on the emotional level is probably even more important than cognitive work. We remember the definition of film given by Roland Barthes, who calls it festival d’affects (festival of affects), which could be equally said of a city.11 If the work of a fiction film is to make me resonate with the events narrated – I propose to call this process mise en phase, the “commissioning phase“ of the viewer’s emotional positioning12 – and hence to make me attend to the implicitly mediated speech (every narrative is based on a set of values that we communicate via the story that is told), all the work of the city is to make me resonate with the speech it wants to convey, a speech I apprehend through the narrative I build by visiting it. For example, once out of the Bilbao airport, I am engaged in a kind of parallel montage between two series: on the one hand, traces of industrial Bilbao, the “city of steel” and, according to a travel guide, “an unattractive big industrial city strictly for lovers of urban poetry,”13 with traces carefully and artfully maintained (large chimneys, factory buildings, brick walls); and on the other hand, everything that seeks to place Bilbao under the sign of contemporary art, to mobilize culture as a city project: the construction of a new airport and of the Uribitarte bridge by Santiago Calatrava, the seafront creation of a gallery district by Cesar Pelli, or a new metro designed by Norman Foster. Of course, this series culminates with Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum. With this production, the montage no longer marks the passage of the industrial into an aesthetic paradigm; it produces a discourse of identity. Consisting of the juxtaposition of fragmented blocks with various shapes and volumes, the Guggenheim is strikingly almost chaotic, at least in its polymorphic structure (one can see there the evocation of a ship, but also of an animal or plant form). It is an assembly that makes sense only through the system of relations it evokes: a relationship with the city’s past (referring to Bilbao’s maritime history), a relationship with nature (especially with the river, but also with the sky, which is reflected in some parts of its architecture), and, more generally, a relation to the vital dynamic of the world. This montage gives the Gehry’s building a Baroque, almost mythical, dimension, leading to the production of a statement of identity, an identity that asserts itself as dynamic, mixed, transformative, multicultural, and open to the world. Thus described, visiting Bilbao becomes like viewing a kind of propaganda film – I am thinking in particular of Sergei Eisenstein’s Oktyabr (October, 1928) or Staroe i novoe (The General Line, 1929). Not only does the city impose on me a discourse built upon the work of affects, but a discourse that conceals another: under the guise of showing me the transformation of the city, under the cover of art, it is a matter of ideology. The new identity discourse declares itself as the opposite of the identity that ETA would impose on the Basque country: ETA activists who have tried to dynamite the Guggenheim are not wrong in their reading of its significance. 11 Roland Barthes, “En sortant du cinéma,” Communications, no. 23 (1975): 104; in English as “Leaving the Movie Theater,” in The Rustle of Language, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Hill and Wang, 1986), 346. 12 About the notion of mise en phase, see Roger Odin, “For a Semio-Pragmatics of Film,” in Film and Theory: An Anthology, ed. Robert Stam and Toby Miller (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2000), 60–62. 13 Guide du Routard: Portugal [Routard’s guide: Portugal] (Paris: Routard, 1995), 60. Trans. Ian Christie.
Roger Odin A tourism promotion image of Bilbao, www.takequickbreak.com.
Compared to Bilbao, Berlin depends less on montage than on point of view and staging. A series of spaces there have been specially designed with the explicit function of dislodging me from my position as visitor (spectator) and forcing me to adopt the point of view of a Berliner and, more generally, of a German; we could say that Berlin uses the subjective camera and identification. It is a case of making me resonate with the double vulnerability that underpins German identity, what Régine Robin calls “the double ghostly machinery of German memory,”14 of Jews and of the Wall. Thus the Berlin Jewish Museum designed by Daniel Libeskind aims not only to “reveal the trauma to the German society as a whole by the loss of its Jewish community,”15 as Robin suggests, but to make me feel this trauma in my own body: narrow corridors, massive walls striped with disturbing loopholes, spaces producing a strong feeling of confinement and excluding the world (the Holocaust Tower), and a loss of horizontality. The Garden of Exile consists of several series of vertical columns placed on a sloping floor so that I feel in my body something of the destabilization produced by exile. Not far from the Reichstag, the new Holocaust memorial, “Fields of Memory,” is designed in the same spirit: a field of 2,700 steles spread over an area of 20,000 m² stretches out so that the visitor, having entered, will never see its limits. The space between the steles forces one to be alone: we cannot penetrate it in company because of its narrowness. In addition, the arrangement of wave-shaped headstones of varying widths and heights are intended to give the visitor a strong feeling of instability and the sense that his perception of the whole will constantly change. According to the architect, Peter Eisenmann, the goal is to unravel the illusion of being safe. The Wall, whose fragments are ubiquitous in the city, has resulted in the construction of an installation that operates on the same principle. This memorial, located in Bernauer 14 Régine Robin, Berlin Chantiers: Une essai sur les passés fragiles [Berlin building sites: An essay on fragile pasts] (Paris: Stock, 2001), 93. Trans. Ian Christie. 15 Robin, Berlin Chantiers, 376. Trans. Ian Christie.
Visiting a City, Watching a Film
Strasse, takes the form of two large polished steel plates which enclose a seventy-metre fold of the wall, carefully cleared of graffiti: the whole impact of this installation lies in the wooden fence that not only prevents access to the space behind the wall, but forbids us to see what there is between the two plates that enclose it. If I still want to try to see what is behind this fence, I must contort myself to peer through the cracks between some panels of the fence. Of course, after all that effort, I discover that there is nothing to see. The space behind was left as it was when the Wall was functional, that is to say, abandoned, empty: it is the space of death. For a moment, I am led to share the frustration generated by the Wall among those it separated. Thus Berlin works its psychotherapy by producing “installations” that lead visitors to share its problems. Berlin belongs to the paradigm of making public the intimate, which is an important part of contemporary cinema and television, with its incalculable number of, to use Dominique Mehl’s term, “confessional” programmes,16 and now the internet.17 Let me be clear: my point is not to say that Berlin and Bilbao were cinematically planned, or that these cities mimic films, but to show that the city and cinema mobilize the same resources in terms of the production of meaning and affects. Jean Nouvel has expressed this well from the standpoint of the designer: “Experiencing a feeling, being moved, being aware, having a sense of the perverse through emotion, analysing that emotion, remembering, implementing a strategy for simulating, amplifying it – in order to convey it to others, and certainly to test it, for the delight of shared pleasure. All this is what it means to be a film director or architect.”18 The same is true from the side of the viewer or visitor. No wonder then that seeing a film is so frequently like visiting a city. The fact has been widely studied, but to me the processes involved seem more important. If the theme of the city tour is so present in cinema, it is surely because there is no better way to bring us into the fiction, since it is only a matter for us, viewers, of repeating the processes of production of meaning and affects (diegetization, narration, identification, or affective positioning of the spectator) that we are familiar with from travelling around a city. Visiting a city has always meant making up one’s own cinema. Today there is a need to take that phrase literally. Visiting a city amounts, more often than not, to seeing a film. Not only because most city tours, at least the organized ones, start with a film, or rather a multimedia production, intended to help us see the city better than when we actually walk through it19 – these productions present themselves as 16 See Dominique Mehl, La Télévision de l’intimité [The television of intimacy] (Paris: Seuil, 1996). “Confessional” refers to the growing use in “reality television” of interviews with members of the public in which they reveal their private lives and personal problems. 17 My observations about Bilbao and Berlin are based on visits to these cities made as part of a research programme supported by the European Science Foundation, “Changing Media – Changing Europe” (2000–2004), directed by Ib Bondebjerg and Peter Golding. The results of the team’s research are published in the volume European Culture and the Media, ed. Ib Bondebjerg and Peter Golding (Bristol: Intellect, 2004). 18 Jean Nouvel, “Les cinéastes? Sur des choses certaines, ils m’ont ouvert les yeux” [The filmmakers? In some matters, they opened my eyes], in Cités-Cinés, 23. Trans. Ian Christie. 19 For example, the Emirates cable-car across the River Thames in London offers an “on-board video tour” of East London, see https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/emirates-air-line/the-emirates-air-lineexperience?intcmp=1445.
offering a concentrated experience of the city – but also because more and more the city is apprehended through the screen of the video camera held by the visitor. Noting that during the hostage capture at the Japanese embassy in Lima, tourist agencies changed routes and planned a stop in front of the embassy so that tourists could film the scene of the tragedy, Marc Augé wondered if “the city fiction of tomorrow will be anything other than a menu of images to consume now or to take with you, like the pre-cooked dishes of some Chinese restaurants?”20 And it is true that the visitor becomes increasingly a recorder of prefabricated images offered to him by the city; some cities have even put up panels indicating places where it is best to photograph. But what interests me especially in this remark by Augé is the idea of images to be consumed later. This is indeed what marks the difference between the current practice with camcorders and what happened in the days of amateur filmmakers, filming for the future and rejoicing in advance at the memory they would later have (“here, that would have been beautiful”).21 With the camcorder, even if we still film in order to say that we were in a particular city, we saw such and such (the place where the hostages were taken, for example), it is essentially in the present, during the shooting and while visiting the city, as things are playing out. The camcorder is the go-between, the indispensable cata lyst without which the city cannot be seen – “my camera broke down, I wasn’t able to see anything,” a friend told me after returning from a trip. It is as if things can only be understood if they appear on a screen. This is because the screen protects, but also because without a frame there is no vision. At the same time, this frame bounds my space: seeing the city through the camcorder is inscribing it in my private images, just as the television screen privatizes public space by bringing it within the space of the house. Looking at the city through my camcorder, I transform public space into private images. To visit the city now is to make my home in the city (that is what the camcorder was at first: a portable home). In fact, the city is no longer visited or even seen for itself; it is no longer the place of history and of memory: it is merely a private image among others. Paul Virilio was concerned that the public image is replacing the public space, with the emergence of the “mobile sedentary” able to wander the city vicariously through portable media.22 Now another stage has been reached: it is the private image that is about to replace the public space.
20 Marc Augé, L’impossible voyage: Le tourisme et ses images [The impossible journey: Tourism and its images] (Paris: Payot and Rivages, 1997), 164. Trans. Ian Christie. 21 See Karl Sierek, “C’est beau, ici” [Isn’t it beautiful here?], in Le film de famille: Usage privé, usage public [The family film: Private and public use], ed. Roger Odin (Paris: Méridiens Klincksieck, 1995): 63–76. 22 Paul Virilio, “Les lumières de la ville” [City lights], in Cités-cinés, 157.
Visiting a City, Watching a Film
Bibliography Augé, Marc. L’impossible voyage: Le tourisme et ses images. Paris: Payot and Rivages, 1997. Barthes, Roland. “En sortant du cinéma.” Communications, no. 23 (1975): 104–7. Barthes, Roland. “Leaving the Movie Theater.” In The Rustle of Language, translated by Richard Howard. New York: Hill and Wang, 1986. 345–49. Bondebjerg, Ib, and Peter Golding, eds. European Culture and the Media. Bristol: Intellect, 2004. Calvino, Italo. Invisible Cities. Translated by William Weaver. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974. Casetti, Francesco. D’un regard l’autre: Le film et son spectateur. Lyon: Presses Universitaires de Lyon, 1990. Casetti, Francesco. Inside the Gaze: The Fiction Film and Its Spectator. Translated by Charles O’Brien. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999. Certeau, Michel de. The Practice of Everyday Life. Translated by Steven Rendall. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984, Daney, Serge. “Ville-ciné et télé-banlieue.” In Cités-Cinés, edited by Lisa Grenier and Catherine Boulegue. Paris: Grande Halle-La Villette; Ramsay, 1987. 121–27. Gómez de la Serna, Ramón. Ciné-ville. Translated by Marcelle Auclair. Paris: Simon Kra, 1928. Gómez de la Serna, Ramón. Movieland. Translated by Angel Flores. New York: Macaulay, 1930. Guide du Routard: Portugal. Paris: Routard, 1995. Malle, Louis, dir. Zazie dans le métro. Nouvelles Éditions de Films, 1960. Mehl, Dominique. La Télévision de l’intimité. Paris: Seuil, 1996. Nouvel, Jean. “Les cinéastes? Sur des choses certaines, ils m’ont ouvert les yeux.” In CitésCinés, edited by Lisa Grenier and Catherine Boulegue. Paris: Grande Halle-La Villette; Ramsay, 1987. 23–27. Odin, Roger. “For a Semio-Pragmatics of Film.” In Film and Theory: An Anthology, edited by Robert Stam and Toby Miller. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2000. 54–66. Robin, Régine. Berlin Chantiers: Une essai sur les passés fragiles. Paris: Stock, 2001. Sierek, Karl. “C’est beau, ici.” In Le film de famille: Usage privé, usage public, edited by Roger Odin. Paris: Méridiens Klincksieck, 1995. 63–76. Vertov, Dziga, dir. The Man with a Movie Camera. VUFKU, 1929. Virilio, Paul. “Les lumières de la ville.” In Cités-cinés, edited by Lisa Grenier and Catherine Boulegue. Paris: Grande Halle-La Villette; Ramsay, 1987. 155–58. Worth, Sol. “Man Is Not a Bird.” Semiotica 23, no. 1–2 (1978): 5–28. Worth, Sol. “Pictures Can’t Say Ain’t.” Verses 12 (1975): 85–108. Worth, Sol. Studying Visual Communication. Edited by Larry Gross. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1981. Worth, Sol, and John Adair. Through Navajo Eyes: An Exploration in Film Communication and Anthropology. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1972.
6 Re-living History in a Television Documentary – D-day: As It Happens* Jakub Korda This chapter considers the changing nature of history programming in television, with special reference to an innovative UK Channel Four series, D-Day: As It Happens, broadcast in 2013. There is, however, an immediate problem of terminology. The Channel Four series, or “event,” as it was billed, belongs to the broad category of “factual” programmes, as all non-fiction is now labeled in English-language television. Yet in other traditions, it would be classified as “popular science,” where this designates an analytical approach to the study of any phenomena, including those of the arts and humanities, as well as of the social and “hard” sciences. Throughout the chapter I use, under the influence of Bienvenido León, the broader concept of “(popular) scientific” to review trends within a wide range of factual programme-making, which includes the popular genre of history programmes.1 Historically, the form of the popular science documentary emerged long before it became established as a genre in the early years of cinema, and later gained a regular place in television scheduling. Together with travel and wildlife documentaries and programmes dealing with cosmology, history documentaries have traditionally been one of the most dependable categories.2 In terms of the basic elements of the documentary form (John Corner lists among these observation, exposition, interviews, dramatisation, and mise en scène)3 or modes of representation (here the expository mode, which relies on the usage of an authoritative voice-over or an on-screen presenter’s description and explanation of facts),4 the popular science documentary is a genre with its own conventions, topics, protagonists, as well as narrative and stylistic patterns. The aim of this chapter is to establish some typical elements of the genre, taking into * Translated from Czech by Vojtěch Kudela. 1 A mini-excursion into the historical development of scientific film in Europe and the U.S., with particular attention to the area of the nature documentary subgenre, is available in, for example, Bienvenido León, Science on Television: The Narrative of Scientific Documentary, trans. Alicia Otano and María López (Luton: Pantaneto Press, 2007). A more detailed account of British scientific film and television history is provided by Timothy Boon in Films of Fact: A History of Science in Documentary Films and Television (London: Wallflower Press, 2008). 2 In the context of post-1989 television broadcasting in Czechoslovakia (from 1993 the Czech Republic), the history documentary has expanded “epidemically” and become probably the most common type of popularisation documentary. Within the original production of Czech public television, it is also a longterm favourite among educational and informational programmes. The situation changed as a result of the availability of larger specialised cable channels focused on wildlife documentaries during the first decade of the 21st century. Even greater diversity was introduced by the launch of the first specialised documentary channel, Prima Zoom, in 2013. 3 See John Corner, Television Form and Public Address (London: Edward Arnold, 1995), 85–101. Besides the five basic elements of the documentary form, we could also take music into account or consider the use of a confessional mode. All these features help to provide a better understanding of how documentary films or television programmes are constructed. 4 See Bill Nichols, Introduction to Documentary (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001), 99–138. The expository mode is typical of popular science documentaries, as it attempts to distribute information and make arguments about the world. Besides the expository mode Nichols presents five other modes
account innovations in its rhetoric derived from the technological innovations of the last decade, and to demonstrate them at work in the British television project D-Day: As It Happens (2013), made for Channel 4 to commemorate the 69th anniversary of Allied troops’ landing in Normandy during World War II, on 6 June 1944.
The Rhetoric of the Popular Science Documentary Some principles of the popular science documentary are very stable, while others have been transformed in recent decades. The concept of the films as school-style lessons imi tating one-way lectures has largely been abandoned today. The image of viewers as pupils who need to be passively educated is no longer acceptable. Instead, popular science programmes exist within a highly competitive market and must fight hard to attract the viewer’s attention and establish their own recognisable profile within the TV super flow (which is the sum of all possible programme sequences of accessible TV channels and, as Klaus Bruhn Jensen suggested, also the defining characteristic of at least American commercial television)5 or in the massive competition provided by the video-on-demand market and internet TV, including YouTube. All of this has led the whole genre towards a tendency to use more dynamic and less formal styles, offering not only information, but also entertainment. In this sense we can talk about a shift toward “edutainment,”6 that is, toward the balancing of the three basic functions of the popularisation process: to inform, to educate, and to entertain. Even so, the default assumption that a number of viewers do not have a deeper understanding of the subject matter is part of the popu larisation rhetoric, which results in a steadily applied principle of the simplification of context description and further detailed information. According to many, this is the only way the general public can really understand professional topics.7 There have also been attempts to establish “an index of legibility,”8 measured by expressing the ratio of technical terms and other “difficult words” in the text to the total word count, thus attempting to describe the level of complexity of popularisation discourse.9 In order to simplify technical scientific discourse, not only is ordinary language used, but to a of the representation of reality: observational (an open form that tends to simply observe), participatory (using an interview as a testimony), reflexive (focusing on spectators and their assumptions and expectations), poetic (lacking a narrative content, exploring associations and patterns, rhythm and spatial juxtapositions), and performative (the creators of documentary films are engaged in their stories and present their subjective truths and interpretations). 5 Klaus Bruhn Jensen, “Reception as Flow: The ‘New Television Viewer’ Revisited,” in Television Times: A Reader, ed. John Corner and Sylvia Harvey (London: Hodder Education, 1996), 190. 6 Robert Heyman used the term “edutainment” in the 1970s while producing documentary films for the National Geographic Society. See Marta Rey-López, Ana Fernández-Vilas, and Rebeca P. Díaz-Redondo, “A Model for Personalized Learning through IDTV,” in Adaptive Hypermedia and Adaptive Web-Based Systems: 4th International Conference, AH 2006, Dublin, Ireland, June 21–23, 2006, Proceedings, ed. Vincent Wade, Helen Ashman, and Barry Smyth (Berlin: Springer, 2006), 457–61. 7 See, for example, Dorothy Nelkin, Selling Science: How the Press Covers Science and Technology, rev. ed. (New York: W. H. Freeman, 1995). 8 See Javier Fernandez del Moral, and Francisco Esteve Ramírez, Fundamentos de la información periodística especializada [Essentials of specialised journalism] (Madrid: Síntesis, 1993), 28. 9 León, Science on Television, 28.
Re-living History in a Television Documentary
certain extent some “concealment” also takes place; many documentaries, for example, stay silent about various controversies or conflicting scientific views related to a topic. From a rhetorical point of view, similes and metaphors have great value for simplifying descriptions and arguments during the explanations of more complex scientific or historiographic concepts, bringing them closer to the knowledge and everyday experience of viewers. Thus the history of the planet Earth is very often likened to a clock face, which makes it easier for viewers to relate to and grasp the information being conveyed, for example, to place the chronology of milestones, such as the mass extinction of the dinosaurs, on the axis between the creation of the Earth and today. A well-known analogy is comparing the origins of World War I to a pub brawl, through the personal dynamics of which it is possible to explain the escalation of reactions and counter-reactions that resulted in a global conflict in 1914. An important aspect of popular science television programmes is the presence of a charismatic presenter. John Corner considers the presenter to be the element distinguishing television from film documentary.10 Bienvenido León says: Television documentary assigns the presenter a prominent role. The presenter’s on-screen appearances normally act as the backbone of the structure of the programme. Furthermore, the fact that presenters become well-known figures increases their credibility in the eyes of the public. . . . [T]he audience tends to trust that the presenter will not misinform them.11
While in the past a presenter had an a priori authority, which was confirmed by the formal speech register, television discourse today is becoming more and more informal and intimate in its way of addressing viewers. A common characteristic of the new performa tive (or acting) style is the emphasis on one’s own curiosity. In principle, the curiosity of the presenter mirrors the viewer’s ignorance and desire to know. On the other hand, the presenter’s authority is also solidified and constructed by means of infographics and subtitles (indicating their academic titles or affiliation with a scientific institution), their free access to specialist knowledge, or by incorporating them into the iconographically defined environment of laboratories, universities, and the like, which confirms their unique status within the popular science narrative. Such a contrast is avoided by programmes which assign the role of the presenter to a well-known celebrity from outside the field, such as the Monty Python member Terry Jones investigating the history of mathematics in Story of 1 (2005). Here the engagement of viewers is being projected onto the presenter, thus bringing closer the motivation of the protagonist and the recipients of his message. One of the key rhetorical figures used to make technical topics and perspectives accessible to the masses is probably the likening of these phenomena to an everyday experience known to the audience. For example, this can involve explaining which daily chores, even though seemingly distant from the matter at hand, are connected to a particular phenomenon and how that phenomenon might influence our daily lives in the 10 See Corner, Television Form and Public Address, 84. It corresponds with the original idea of television as an immediate medium, with a much more intimate manner of addressing the recipients, working with the concept of creating para-social relations between TV actors and the viewer. 11 León, Science on Television, 118.
present or the near future. The viewers find out during which activities they are unwittingly using the findings in a particular field of research, or historical knowledge. For example, the BBC mini-series Seven Wonders of the Industrial World (2003), mapping the history of engineering inventions during the period of the Industrial Revolution, stresses the benefits present-day society has derived from the struggle of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century inventors and engineers. The second episode of another British TV series distributed by the BBC, The Dark Ages: An Age of Light (2012), begins with a suggestion by the presenter, Waldemar Januszczak, that we wear trousers thanks to the Visigoths, a “barbarian” tribe. In general, popularisation discourse prefers “viewer-centrism,” the tendency to relate everything to the needs and mental perspective of the viewers and their cultural categories. In this sense an important added value that increases the appeal of the topic being presented is proximity, no matter whether spatial, mental, and/ or cultural.12 In the modern process of education, purely didactic procedures are being replaced by experimental ones, which provide the target audience (students, educators, or the general public) with immediate “experience” of the phenomena to encourage them to understand and remember the subject matter better. A similar trend can be observed in the rhetoric of science television. The presenter today frequently, besides describing some scientifically explicable phenomena, involves spectators in the process of discovery and verification, making them direct observers. For example, in City Beneath the Waves: Pavlopetri (2011), a computer-generated model of buildings of the oldest submerged city (off the coast of the Peloponnese, in Greece) is inserted into the image, while divers performing underwater research are showing us the real location and explaining the architectural principles of that time. In Story of 1, mentioned earlier, Terry Jones and his audience discover together, “here and now,” the first ever number zero in history on a sandstone tablet. This connection with the moment when “things are happening” intensifies the immediacy of the television medium, developed throughout the decades of its existence, combining the potential of the seeming immediacy and the direct addressing of viewers in their homes through the audiovisual material. To what extent popular science television can use this confluence of events and their mediated (and medial) consumption is something I will show later by means of a case study of D-Day: As It Happens. We should also mention another important aspect of science television: technology. It plays a significant role, not only during the research but also in securing the audience’s access to “scientific experience” at the crucial moment of its possible recording and visualisation. Even in the pre-cinematographic era there was a desire among scientific pioneers to visualise certain phenomena with the aim of analysing and presenting them, as in the case of the Czech scientist Jan Evangelista Purkyně visualising a beating heart in his kinesiskop,13 or the earlier analytical record of a running horse by Eadweard 12 See León, Science on Television, 69. 13 The kinesiskop (kinesiscope) was a technology using a disc holding nine photographs of an object or person in movement, while the viewer was attached to a magic lantern. Purkyně described such an illusion of movement as being based on the principle of the alternation of the seen image and after-image. See “Jan Evangelista Purkyně,” Monoskop, August 25, 2014, http://monoskop.org/Jan_Evangelista_Purkyně.
Re-living History in a Television Documentary
Muybridge. The ability to record something also constitutes an opportunity to understand and demonstrate. Because of the increased need of television discourse to show interesting and unusual situations, a more sophisticated usage of recording technology and new ways of representing scientific knowledge seem crucial. Elaborate means of recording or reproduction allow viewers “to be there.” Popular science documentaries in general rely on cameras with night vision optics, telephoto lenses, high frame rate cameras recording at thousands of frames per second, allowing the extreme slowing down of motion, miniature recording devices, and, of course, CGI (computer graphic imagery) allowing once “invisible” phenomena and facts to be visualised. In City Beneath the Waves: Pavlopetri, researchers used a revolutionary recording technology to receive a 3D photorealistic surface of the sea bed and then, through sophisticated CGI, they recreated the appearance and life of the submerged city. Sometimes there is a shift towards what John Caldwell calls “excessive style.” In such documentaries “style itself became the subject, the signified, if you will, of television. In fact, this self-consciousness of style became so great that it can more accurately be described as an activity – as a perfomance of style – rather than as a particular look.”14 A good example of this excessive style is one of the many films about the Normandy landings in June 1944, D-Day 360 (2014). In this film, the attention of the viewers is, to a large extent, attracted by sophisticated computer modelling of authentic environments, soldiers, and machinery, the whole resembling a photographic painting in its style. The artificial character of these images is emphasised by the confrontation of very realistic but static model soldiers with projected authentic images from that period. The show itself accentuates the importance of technologies in the preparation phase of filming when, thanks to 3D scanners, it is possible to successfully create a perfect model of the shore, allowing us to gain new knowledge about the progress of the invasion. This can be regarded as an example of how one segment of the science television documentary moves toward the reflexive mode, which, according to Nichols, acknowledges the constructed nature of film, emphasising the production process, which becomes itself a part of the narrative.15 This development of what I call a “television of attractions,” which stresses its ability to show something,16 brought the genre to a new level of audience engagement, resulting from the opportunity to see events normally invisible to the human eye and to disengage ourselves from an everyday perspective. Events presented by increasingly elaborate technologies have a much stronger emotional value than their mere verbal description, which can be defined as a major criterion of “edutainment.” In this respect, popular 14 John Caldwell, Televisuality: Style, Crisis, and Authority in American Television (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1995), 5. 15 See Nichols, Introduction to Documentary, 99–138. 16 I derive my term from Tom Gunning’s “cinema of attractions.” Gunning, a film historian, related it to the early cinema till 1907, which did not attempt to tell a story or to record an event, but relied on its ability to show something to solicit the attention of the viewer. It partly returns to what Gunning calls “spectacle cinema,” that is, the “Spielberg-Lucas-Coppola cinema of effects,” which emphasises visual stimuli but, unlike its predecessor, continues to show respect for storytelling. See Tom Gunning, “The Cinema of Attraction: Early Film, Its Spectator, and the Avant-garde,” Wide Angle 8 (1986): 63–70.
science or factual television reflects more general trends within television narrativity, which was considered “poor” in terms of events, that is, with events often described by the characters rather than actually shown in process.Television audiences, however, are becoming ever more demanding, and television narration (including that of documentaries) must accommodate their needs. Television producers are therefore forced to visualise the normally unobservable through yet more sophisticated methods, often in a highly realistic mode. That is also why the production of popular science documentaries is much more expensive than the production of other types of film and television documentaries.
Cross-media Content and Popular Science Television In the past, various areas within the media industry developed economically advantageous forms of cooperation. As the result, their specific products were able to migrate between different media platforms. The reactions of producers to the gradual convergence of such once distinct worlds as television, computer games, the press, and the internet used to be driven by the economic needs of the industry. In the case of television, there were attempts to capitalise on the popularity of a programme in other spheres of the market. Books based on successful programmes were published and collectors’ and promotional items created, along with programme-inspired computer games and the like. In such cases, these were essentially adaptations of the original content for other media platforms. In recent years, however, much more has been happening than merely cooperation between various media fields. There is, rather, a process of convergence, in which the boundaries between what were once clearly distinguishable media, such as radio, television, film, computers and video games, telecommunications, and print media, are being increasingly erased. This convergence is due to the emergence of digitisation and related technological developments. Today’s consumers already have large numbers of instruments at their disposal through which they have easy access to digitised content – smart televisions, the internet, tablets, or smartphones. Contemporary television programmes often incorporate elements that were formerly typical of other media (audiovisual footage, texts, interactive elements, games, polls) and encourage their viewers to take an active part in the process, therefore making them both consumers and co-creators. This frequently occurs with the use of multiple types of equipment (the combination of television watching with the use of tablet computers and browsing through social networks), not only sharing the original broadcast content, but also adding the audience’s own. Compared with mere adaptation of a show for other digital platforms, this is often a mix of the total “informational experience” across various forms of media. The proper term for this is, therefore, cross-media non-fictional narrative. These innovative dispositions of the television medium have become a challenge even for the popular science documentary. In the traditional educational process, what is ultimately praised is the ability to stimulate recipients of information and to involve them in the process of learning, awakening their curiosity. But if we want to use terms from the field of education, in
Re-living History in a Television Documentary
relation to factual television we would talk about a technologically more sophisticated, informal, and completely voluntary “lesson” in which the “pupils” combine the lecture with work on texts or the use of tablet computers in ongoing interaction with the teacher. Cross-media content is proving to be one of the possible economic models for the television industry,17 providing a smaller yet very loyal following, which is achievable in various corners of the media landscape. Besides strengthening the effect of popularisation, such content is also an economically motivated step towards achieving the diversification of programmes in a highly competitive market, and the creation of shows which the station will use to build its brand and consequently strengthen the communication interface between the audience and the channel.18 In the last few years the British Channel 4 has systematically worked with its own brand in this manner, commissioning Windfall Films to create a series of shows building on the foundations of live (real-time) cross-media narrative, such as D-Day: As It Happens.
Re-living History on the TV/Computer/Smartphone Screen The modern storytelling mechanisms of the popular science documentary can be demonstrated exceptionally well through the example of the TV programme D-Day: As It Happens. World War II is probably the most extensively scrutinised topic in television history documentaries (at least in the Central European context), which might seem to be a problem for the science documentary genre aiming to attract viewers’ attention by means of original topics. That is indeed why the attention-building strategy had to take another route in this case, and the creators of the show tried offering new facts and points of view connected to this milestone in European war history. For the purpose of re-presenting a well-known event, this project adopted several innovative procedures and pointed towards directions that the rhetoric of popular science documentary production might take. This involved the unprecedented use of social network sites as an integral part of a live television show and the interpretation of the great battle from the micro-perspective of several hitherto unknown, yet real participants. The project took place over 5–6 June 2013 and viewers were able to follow the stories of seven real, historically documented persons who took part in the invasion, on different platforms, in real time, minute by minute. All seven protagonists had a Twitter account opened in their name, on which each commented in real time during the course of that day, as the producers reconstructed it through investigation of the available archive materials. Such a transfer of real historical participants into a modern communication mode may initially seem too artificial, but it was part of the standard process of developing certain unique conventions for each show, and judging by the reactions, 17 Television ratings and the audience response are important criteria for public television as well; they use them to legitimise incomes from licence fees. 18 Johnson defines the branding activities of television stations through the concept of an “interface,” through which a relationship between the consumer and the product, in this case the viewer and the television station, is created and negotiated. See Catherine Johnson, Branding Television (London: Routledge, 2012), 167.
D-Day as It Happens
viewers accepted it very quickly. The protagonists commented on their progress from a personal point of view: Des O’Neill (military photographer), 11:06 AM: “I’ve been shot! I was retracing my steps along the beach when there was a rattle of automatic fire and a searing pain in my elbow!” Des O’Neill, 11:15 AM: “I get my field dressing out and wrap it round and look for a first-aid station. I can see the Red Cross flying over a captured bunker.” Des O’Neill, 11:20AM: “A corporal slaps some sulphanilamide powder on my elbow and says, ‘You had better get back to England.’”19
The protagonists’ movements were tracked continuously in real time on a map of the battlefield. Their current situation and personal stories, as well as the explanation of the war and survival strategies, army technology, and political context, became the subject of a 24-hour stream composed of filmed scenes from 1944, reconstructions, interviews, and photographic montages, all combined with the content of a website and material published on social networking sites.20 The audience began to add photo graphs from their home archives to the Twitter account, along with journals of their (grand)parents, recent photographs of Omaha Beach, or newspaper images from the day of the invasion. The show even inspired viewers to make their own fan creations, such as drawings inspired by scenes described by the protagonists of the documentary on their Twitter accounts. Thus historical sources themselves became protagonists of the show, which demonstrated that a proper contextualisation can turn seemingly meaningless details into historically valuable sources. The show became an extremely rich and interactively animated collection of materials; and thanks to the research carried out by the producers and to contributions by viewers, anonymous faces in archival photos gained names and life stories after decades of anonymity. A Twitter user commented on it in the following way: 19 Des O’Neill, I’ve been shot, Twitter (online), June 6, 2013, https://twitter.com/dday7des. (The tweet is probably a copyrighted product of the producers of the programme.) 20 In two days, the page was followed on Twitter by over 40,000 people, and the respective profiles of the seven protagonists visited by 2,000.
Re-living History in a Television Documentary
Anna Draper: “It’s amazing isn’t it? Before you’ve always just seen anonymous soldiers on film, but this is so personal.”21
In this respect, the show enriched the traditional pattern of science television, and the history documentary in particular. The genre usually has a tendency to shed light on the process of research and its most attractive aspects, apart from merely presenting the objective facts. The subject of the shows therefore becomes the presentation of selected aspects of the search for truth. However, D-Day: As It Happens further strengthened the consciousness of historical methodology by letting viewers themselves participate in the clarification of some details, even though this only meant using properly the research-reinforced foundations of the show. If it is true that today media forms which use the “architecture of participation”22 are the most successful, this was one of the first attempts at making the audience take an active part in historical research within the framework of a history documentary television show. Thanks to this form of intensive participation in the stories of seven protagonists of this historical battle, viewers gained access to a lesson on D-Day told from a completely new perspective (or, to put it better, they themselves took part in it with varying degrees of intensity of participation). In this respect the show achieved the effect of a double arti culation of popularisation, highlighting both the subject itself (the historical event) and the research methods employed (material and ways of its interpretation). Additionally, the show successfully took advantage of the live television effect, in this case with techniques bringing the project closer to the form of a current report on an event of exceptional social importance. The show was therefore able to stimulate genre-specific habits, stemming from familiarity with the discourse of news reports that are characterised by a high level of realism and emotionality. The immediate and highly emotional reaction of the D-Day audience to the presentation of an otherwise familiar event is evidence of this. The broadcasting of the show and the stream of information on the web and social networking sites were accompanied by spontaneous reactions from the audience, sometimes even including a direct address to one of the protagonists. For example, at the moment on the timeline when Bob, the pathfinder of the 22nd Independent Parachute Company of the British Army, was captured by German soldiers and interrogated in an undisclosed chateau, or a few minutes before the death of Dixie, a member of the Special Service Brigade, who was speeding off on a bicycle towards the village of Amfreville, viewers spontaneously reacted on Twitter: Colin Greaves: “Don’t give them your name, Bob!”23 Kerry: “Tell ’em nothing Bob!!!”24 21 Anna Draper, @StuartWilde2 @dday7, Twitter (online), June 6, 2013, https://twitter.com/dday7. 22 This term was used by the web publisher Tim O’Reilly to describe the nature of systems designed for user contribution. “Architecture of Participation” is a Web 2.0 concept in which a community of users contributes to the content or to the design and development process of a product or a service. See Tim O’Reilly, “Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software,” O’Reilly, September 30, 2005, http://www.oreilly.com/pub/a/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html?page=1. 23 Colin Greaves, @dday7bob, Twitter (online), June 6, 2013, https://twitter.com/dday7. 24 Kerry, @dday7bob, Twitter (online), June 6, 2013, https://twitter.com/dday7.
Jakub Korda Craig Jones: “Pedal Dixie. Pedal like you’ve never pedalled before.”25
Many other comments show how immediate the reactions of viewers were. People not only voiced their personal feelings and sympathies with the fates of the historical protagonists, but also described the subsequent behaviour the show stimulated among them: Daniel Herrick: “in bed last night following your tweets looked out the window and wondered how the mission were going, as if it were happening now.”26 Coffee: “Just called gran to tell her she’s awesome for what she did during war. She thinks I’ve got mad.”27 Anna Zschokke: “@dday7 is making me cry already and I’m not even caught up to the landing yet.”28
Other comments serve as interesting evidence of viewers’ specific practices, such as community screenings. Some tweets were formulated on behalf of a whole family, or even in the name of entire work teams. A very strong response was provoked by the death of Dixie, which resulted in a number of personal yet also strongly patriotic or generally humane reactions: Digit: “We knew it was going to happen but the death of Dixie during the D Day landings has hit our office pretty hard.”29
Through the pathos inherent in the show, viewers were able to get the taste of history, supported by a strong emotional experience which is not a common part of the discourse of the television historical documentary. In a way, it was a call for the “re-living” of history, very different from the traditional representation of war history as an anonymous story told from a distance of decades or centuries.
Quality Popular Science Television? The question remains about what general conclusions can be drawn from this example, or from other similarly structured programmes operating on a cross-media or trans narrative basis, or working with a real-time presentation mode. In other words, what is the potential of technologically facilitated interactivity in popular science or strictly factual television? Cross-media narration appears to allow the genre to overcome one of its typical characteristics – the assumed zero familiarity of its audience with the topic. In addition to that, the cross-media mode makes it much easier to avoid the seemingly necessary simplification and offers some viewers faster immersion in deeper layers of information with alternatives in the form of additional content on other media platforms, most often on the web, which is not as limited as traditional television. In other words, the show creates levels of information of different depths and thus becomes more 25 Craig Jones, @dday7dixie, Twitter (online), June 6, 2013, https://twitter.com/dday7. 26 Daniel Herrick, @dday7, Twitter (online), June 6, 2013, https://twitter.com/dday7. 27 Coffee, @dday7mary, Twitter (online), June 6, 2013, https://twitter.com/dday7. 28 Anna Zschokke, @dday, Twitter (online), June 6, 2013, https://twitter.com/dday7. 29 Digit, @dday7, Twitter (online), June 6, 2013, https://twitter.com/dday7.
Re-living History in a Television Documentary
suitable for different audiences. The interactive nature of social networking sites also allows a new type of emotion to be drawn into the game, based on participation, identification with the protagonists, and real-time experience – all very hard to achieve in the detached educational genre. The qualities that inspire innovative popular science television projects, are, of course, the same as those which are used in video and computer games. The common point is the relatively high level of control which the viewer has over the final text. However, compared with games, this is a highly realistic experience which works with the most important property of the television medium – its illusion of immediacy. Merging the course of events and the time of their observation has been one of the key strengths of television since its early days. Apart from the real-time factor, another crucial characteristic of television is the possible correlation of the viewer’s time and the fictive time of, for example, a daytime soap opera, which shows through connections to real temporal markers such as holidays, or seasons of the year. The effect of the quasi-real-time factor can be used, through clever broadcast scheduling, even for documentary television programmes. Viewers of D-Day: As It Happens experienced D-Day on “that day” in a similar way to soap opera viewers who relate to their favourite characters to such an extent that if the characters are baking Christmas sweets at the beginning of December, they start doing the same immediately. This case study has shown that the popular history documentary can fulfil the demand for quality television while taking advantage of technological and formal innovations and the possibilities of new audience practices. In such still rather exceptional projects, the popular science documentary genre also successfully achieves a goal which is now becoming much more frequently mentioned as essential for the development of science itself: public engagement. Experience in this field shows that it is not enough to popularise science, but that it is also important to encourage the public to take an active part in it. This would guarantee that the general public would not fear science, instead contributing important data to scientists, including historians. Given that science is also very expensive, a broad social contract about its value would be essential. The potential for more in-depth public involvement is becoming clearer with pio neering television projects which help the audience connect with the real-life protago nists as intimately as if they were characters from their favourite television show. Of course, this does not spell the end of traditionally narrated factual documentaries, which may still offer riveting experiences and are certainly going to retain their place in television schedules. However, thanks to cross-media shows, television can refute speculation about its death as a result of the internet and can claim to have made a successful landing on its shores.
Bibliography Boon, Timothy. Films of Fact: A History of Science in Documentary Films and Television. London: Wallflower Press, 2008. Caldwell, John. Televisuality: Style, Crisis, and Authority in American Television. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1995. City Beneath the Waves: Pavlopetri. Directed by Paul Olding. BBC, 2011. TV series. Coffee. @dday7mary. Twitter (online). June 6, 2013. https://twitter.com/dday7. Corner, John. Television Form and Public Address. London: Edward Arnold, 1995. The Dark Ages: An Age of Light. Directed by Waldemar Januzczak. ZCZ Films; BBC, 2012. TV series. D-Day 360. Directed by Ian Duncan. Windfall Films; PBS, 2014. TV film. D-Day: As It Happens. Directed by Martin Gorst and Joe Myerscough. Windfall Films; BBC Channel 4, 2013. TV series. Digit. @dday7. Twitter (online). June 6, 2013. https://twitter.com/dday7. Fernández del Moral, Javier, and Francisco Esteve Ramírez. Fundamentos de la información periodística especializada. Madrid: Síntesis, 1993. Greaves, Colin. @dday7bob. Twitter (online). June 6, 2013. https://twitter.com/dday7. Gunning, Tom. “The Cinema of Attraction: Early Film, Its Spectator, and the Avant-garde.” Wide Angle 8 (1986): 63–70. Herrick, Daniel. @dday7. Twitter (online). June 6, 2013. https://twitter.com/dday7. “Jan Evangelista Purkyně.” Monoskop. August 25, 2014. http://monoskop.org/Jan_ Evangelista_Purkyně. Jensen, Klaus Bruhn. “Reception as Flow: The ‘New Television Viewer’ Revisited.” In Television Times: A Reader, edited by John Corner and Sylvia Harvey. London: Hodder Education, 1996. 187–97. Johnson, Catherine. Branding Television. London: Routledge, 1992. Jones, Craig. @dday7dixie. Twitter (online). June 6, 2013, https://twitter.com/dday7. Kerry. @dday7bob. Twitter (online). June 6, 2013. https://twitter.com/dday7. León, Bienvenido. Science on Television: The Narrative of Scientific Documentary. Translated by Alicia Otano and María López. Luton: Pantaneto Press, 2007. Nelkin, Dorothy. Selling Science: How the Press Covers Science and Technology. Rev. ed. New York: W.H. Freeman, 1995. Nichols, Bill. Introduction to Documentary. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001. O’Neill, Des. I’ve been shot. Twitter (online). June 6, 2013. https://twitter.com/dday7des. O’Reilly, Tim. “Design Patterns and Business Models for Next Generation of Software.” O’Reilly. September 30, 2005. http://www.oreilly.com/pub/a/web2/archive/what-isweb-20.html?page=1 Rey-López, Marta, Ana Fernández-Vilas, and Rebeca P. Díaz-Redondo. “A Model for Personalized Learning through IDTV.” In Adaptive Hypermedia and Adaptive WebBased Systems: 4th International Conference, AH 2006, Dublin, Ireland, June 21–23, 2006, Proceedings, edited by Vincent Wade, Helen Ashman, and Barry Smyth. Berlin: Springer, 2006. 457–61. Seven Wonders of the Industrial World. Directed by Christopher Spencer et al. BBC, 2003. TV series. Zschokke, Anna. @dday. Twitter (online). June 6, 2013. https://twitter.com/dday7.
7 Sacred Re-Enactments: Representations of the Franciscan Past after the Reformation Martin Elbel The year 1517 was indeed a major turning point in the history of the Order of Friars Minor, one of the most influential religious orders of the Roman Catholic Church. First, in May the Pope divided the order into two separate institutions. Then, five months later, the Reformation in Germany began. Both events had catastrophic consequences for them.1 The position of the order was shattered and in some regions they had to fight for survival. Nonetheless they survived and despite the twin disasters they recovered, regained their position in many countries, and even spread to other continents, including the New World. The restoration was, of course, a multifaceted and complex process. The order implemented internal reform, found influential patrons, and developed strong ties with local populations. But there was another aspect. The Friars Minor were a mendicant order.2 Unlike the older monasteries of the Benedictines or Cistercians, their houses were not allowed (at least in theory) to possess any property. Instead, the friars depended on everyday alms and donations from urban communities. In return they had to offer their services – prayers, devotions, and sacraments – and at the same time cultivate their public image, mediating the traditions and spirituality of the order to people. The way the local community perceived the friars was essential for a successful and lasting symbiosis. In order to achieve this goal, the friars had to employ a number of persuasive strategies.3 In this chapter I focus on one of them: the role of some forms of visual representations of the order and its traditions and history. My approach goes beyond the texts, images (painted or printed), and traditional iconography. Instead, I argue that the friars themselves were a crucial medium which helped the order to communicate their traditions visually to different audiences and thus successfully re-negotiate their position after the Reformation. The Order of Friars Minor was founded in the thirteenth century by Francis of Assisi. It emerged in a period of dramatic and profound changes in Christian society. The unsettled times provoked fears and apocalyptic expectations. Many believed that mankind was actually standing on the threshold of a new era. This also had a deep impact on Francis and his followers, who believed they were about to play a crucial role in that transformation. Some of the radical friars were influenced by the prophecies of Joachim of Fiore, who spoke about the approaching age of the Holy Spirit – the third, ultimate 1 For a general overview of the history of the Friars Minor see Lazaro Iriarte, Franciscan History: The Three Orders of St. Francis of Assisi, trans. Patricia Ross (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1983). 2 The mendicant orders of the thirteenth century are discussed in Donald Prudlo, ed., The Origin, Development, and Refinement of Medieval Religious Mendicancies (Leiden: Brill, 2011). 3 See Martin Elbel, “On the Side of the Angels: Franciscan Communication Strategies in Early Modern Bohemia,” in Religion and Cultural Exchange in Europe, 1400–1700, ed. Heinz Schilling and István G. Toth (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 338–59.
stage in human history, which would come after the first age of God the Father (the Judaism of the Old Testament) and the second of God the Son (the Christianity of the New Testament). They found this idea appealing, and many friars went as far as to see Francis as a second Christ and themselves as apostles of the new age.4 But even more moderate friars were willing to identify Francis as the apocalyptic angel of the sixth seal from the Book of Revelation.5 Since the very beginning of their existence the Friars Minor had had a strong sense of history and their own position in it. Their understanding of his tory contained strong eschatological elements: the past was deeply interwoven with the present and with things to come. But at the same time, the friars had a very pragmatic approach to their history, especially to the legacy of their founding father. In 1244, eighteen years after the death of Francis of Assisi, the assembly of the order’s representatives decided to collect all surviving written testimonies about their founder. All the provinces and houses were ordered to submit every text they had that described the life and deeds of Francis. In the following years texts of varying sizes and characters started to arrive. In 1260 the order’s representatives met again and commissioned Bonaventure of Bagnoregio, a prominent scholar and a high-ranking official of the order, to write a concise new biography, the so-called Legenda Maior, which would become the official legend of St. Francis. Once it had been completed, a decision was made to destroy all the older records which had been so meticulously collected – creating in this way a thorough and purified image of St. Francis.6 Although this decision was not carried out rigorously, and some of the alternative texts continued to circulate, it shows that from the outset the Friars Minor paid great attention to controlling their own history and its presentation. No doubt this was also one of the reasons for their success. When in 1209 Francis of Assisi went to Rome to seek approval for his mendicant way of life, his community consisted of a mere twelve disciples. But Francis soon attracted many more. By the end of the century, the number of Friars Minor – as they were now called – had reached a staggering thirty thousand, and their houses could be found across the whole of Latin Christendom. The Order of Friars Minor became one of the most influential institutions of the medieval church.7 Unlike those of the older monastic orders, its friars were not attached to one particular monastery. Instead they could move around and occupy positions in different places. This gave them substantial mobility and adaptability. The friars also proved very versatile and could assume various roles – they could become professors at the Sorbonne, diplomats, or bishops, but also inquisitors, preachers, and missionaries in remote rural areas. 4 For a discussion of the Spiritual reform movement see David Burr, The Spiritual Franciscans: From Protest to Persecution in the Century after Saint Francis (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2003). 5 See John V. Fleming, From Bonaventure to Bellini: An Essay in Franciscan Exegesis (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982), 129–39. 6 See Jay M. Hammond, “Bonaventure’s Legenda Maior,” in A Companion to Bonaventure, ed. Jay M. Hammond, J. A. Wayne Hellmann, and Jared Goff (Leiden: Brill, 2013), 456. 7 See the overview by John Moorman, A History of the Franciscan Order from Its Origins to the Year 1517 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968).
But the history of the order was also dramatic and complicated. It was gradually transformed from a rather spontaneous movement into a powerful, though somewhat petrified hierarchical institution. This provoked a serious internal crisis when some friars criticised the changes as a deviation from the original Franciscan ideas, while others defended them as necessary concessions and development. For centuries the order was divided into a number of competing factions and eventually even split into several independent institutions.8 As it grew in power, it also provoked many opponents: secular masters at universities, members of other orders, bishops, and even Popes.9 Criticism of the Friars Minor increased especially during times of social and religious crisis. Conflicts between secular and ecclesiastical institutions, as well as great reform attempts such as the Hussite movement, provided opportunities to question the friars’ role in society.10 When in 1517 Martin Luther challenged the authority of the Pope and attacked some of the basic tenets of the Roman Church, it was apparent that the Friars Minor were entering a crucial period in their history. The ideas of Luther and other refor mers soon found a response in society and the movement quickly spread across Europe.11 Apart from social, political, and other reasons for this, the success of the Reformation was nourished and supported – paradoxically just as in the case of Francis’s original friars – by strong eschatological expectations. The notion of the final days of mankind and of the approaching Last Judgment led the reformers to pay greater attention to history. At the same time they also needed to provide their own interpretation of the past, in order to undermine the traditional claims of the medieval Church and negotiate their own position and ambitions. The powerful historical narrative about the Church sinking over the course of the centuries into ever deeper moral and theological corruption played a crucial role in the justification of the reform movement. Thus the Reformation can be seen as, among other things, a clash of competing visions of the history of Christendom, which helped to give rise to modern historical scholarship, with its emphasis on critical methods. There was another similarity between the Reformation and the original Franciscan movement. The reformers had to win the hearts and minds of the people. Their attempt to purify and restore the true spirit of Christianity was backed by the relatively recent invention of the printing press, which enabled them to launch a massive campaign, both textual and visual.12 Given their power and popularity, the Friars Minor represented – together with the Pope – an obvious target for criticism.13 Pamphlets and caricatures 8 For a discussion of the reform movements within the Order of Friars Minor see Duncan Nimmo, Reform and Division in the Medieval Franciscan Order: From Saint Francis to the Foundations of the Capuchins (Rome: Capuchin Historical Institute, 1987). 9 See Penn R. Szittya, The Antifraternal Tradition in Medieval Literature (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986), 4–14, 55. 10 For early criticisms of the Franciscans see Michael F. Cusato and Guy Geltner, eds., Defenders and Critics of Franciscan Life: Essays in Honor of John V. Fleming (Leiden: Brill, 2009). 11 See Diarmaid MacCulloch, Reformation: Europe’s House Divided, 1490–1700 (London: Penguin, 2004), 103–52. The original hardcover edition from the same year was called The Reformation. 12 See Andrew Pettegree, Reformation and the Culture of Persuasion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 156–84. 13 See Geoffrey Dipple, Antifraternalism and Anticlericalism in the German Reformation: Johann Eberlin von Günzburg and the Campaign against the Friars (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1996), 78–80.
depicted friars as wicked minions of the Pope and the embodiment of the worst abuses of the medieval Church. The well-known engraving by Lucas Cranach the Younger depicting the true and the false Church (and preaching) epitomised what was a common place of Reformation propaganda.14 While on the “true” side we can see Martin Luther and his followers, the “false” side depicts alleged abuses of the Roman Catholic Church: superstition, vain devotions, processions, pilgrimages, and especially the sale of indulgences. Cranach the Younger attributes most of these vices to the Friars Minor. The most conspicuous of them is a fat, greedy friar burdened with alms collected from gullible believers. In the picture he is caught in a conversation with the Pope over the money collected from the sale of indulgences. The two main culprits of vice (a Pope and a friar), with their two respective sources of income (indulgences and alms), are visually connected and presented in an eloquent and powerful manner. In the regions where the Reformation found a response, the impact of this campaign was devastating. Friaries began losing support from their patrons, new vocations became rare, and the number of friars dramatically decreased (with many friars actually joining the side of the Reformers). But even in countries loyal to Rome the friars were suddenly facing unexpected challenges; the most important of them was the emergence of new, dynamic religious orders, notably the Jesuits, who started assuming the position which once had belonged almost exclusively to the Friars Minor themselves. An obvious solution to the crisis would have been thorough internal reform, strict observance of the Rule, and a return to a life lived in absolute poverty. All of this should have been clearly and efficiently communicated to the public. However, there was a slight complication. The Friars Minor certainly did not lack a reforming spirit. On the contrary, their reform endeavours were numerous. As I have shown, the tension between moderate and radical followers of St. Francis had been a constant element in their history since the very beginning of the order. The radicals accused the rest of the order of religious laxity and wanted to live according to the Rule of St. Francis sine glossa – without papal concessions and privileges. Some of them went even further in their reforming zeal and entered an open conflict not only with the superiors of the order, but also with the papacy. Although they were eventually suppressed, the tension between the radical and moderate friars never disappeared. In the fifteenth century, radicals succeeded in forming another strong movement, the so-called Observance. This time they sought cooperation with the papacy, and the Popes indeed gave them their support. The Observants spread quickly, but the movement failed to overwhelm and reform the entire order. Instead, the crisis escalated. This was why Pope Leo X eventually decided to take a radical step. In order to prevent its collapse, in 1517 he divided the order into two separate institutions. The moderate group, henceforth called the Conventuals, was allowed to keep all the concessions and privileges (as well as the spectacular basilica with Francis’s tomb in Assisi). The radical groups were supposed to unify under the authority of the Observant 14 See Robert W Scribner, For the Sake of Simple Folk: Popular Propaganda for the German Reformation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), 165–66. The engraving by Cranach the Younger can be found in several places under different names, for example, as “The True and the False Church,” in Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.
leaders and be called the Franciscans. But it did not fully solve the crisis. To many friars, the Observance was still too indulgent and reform movements continued to sprout from the body of the Franciscan order. In 1619 one of those groups gained independence and established its own order – the Capuchins.15 By the seventeenth century, therefore, there were three separate Orders of Friars Minor – the Conventuals, the Franciscans, and the Capuchins – and these three branches were in constant competition, both on the general and local levels. Each of them sought to provide their own respective answer to the question: “Which of the Orders of Friars Minor is a genuine one?” Or, as they would put it: “Who are the true sons of St. Francis?” Those controversies occupied the officials, preachers, and polemicists of all three branches for several decades, but most of these debates and arguments would hardly reach significant audiences. There was, however, one particular issue that could and indeed did concern a broader public: this was the matter of appearance, specifically the question of the proper shape and colour of the original habit worn by St. Francis. The Capuchins, the newest of the orders, were especially keen to demonstrate that it was they who wore a habit identical to that of the founding father of the Friars Minor. Friar Zacharia Boverio even made a tour through Italy, during which he documented the earliest depictions of St. Francis. His book De vera habitus forma published in 1632 contained dozens of reproductions of ancient paintings and frescoes, which were supposed to prove that St. Francis had worn a habit with a pointed hood – similar to that worn by the Capuchins.16 The other two orders fought back and searched for images that would correspond to their own respective habits. At the same time all three orders made sure that artists who were commissioned by them to paint a new image of St. Francis depicted him in the habit of their own branch. In most late medieval and early modern paintings we can clearly distinguish whether St. Francis is depicted as a Conventual (a black habit), a Franciscan (a grey or brown habit with a round hood), or a Capuchin friar (a brown habit with a pointed hood).17 The controversy eventually became so embarrassing that the Pope had to step in again and ban any further debates on the matter. We can see that the visualisation of reform was not a simple, straightforward process. Quibbles about the proper shape and colour of habits were traditionally seen as one of the typical vices of religious orders – recall, for instance, the barbs in the Colloquia (1518) by Erasmus of Rotterdam.18 No matter 15 For a general overview of Capuchin history see Father Cuthbert, The Capuchins: A Contribution to the History of the Counter-Reformation, 2 vols. (London: Sheed and Ward, 1928) 16 See Zaccaria Boverio, De vera habitus forma, a Seraphico B. P. Francisco instituta, demonstrationes undecim [Eleven demonstrations of the genuine form of the habit as endorsed by the Blessed Father Francis Seraphin], in Annalium seu sacrarum historiarum Ordinis minorum S. Francisci qui Capucini nuncupantur, tomus primus [Annals, or the sacred history of the Order of Friars Minor called the Capuchins, volume one] (Lugduni [Lyon]: Claudius Landry, 1632), available in the British Library, call number 484.f.12. 17 See Martin Elbel, “The Making of a Perfect Friar: Habit and Reform in the Franciscan Tradition,” in Friars, Nobles and Burghers – Sermons, Images and Prints: Studies of Culture and Society in Early-Modern Europe, ed. László Kontler and Jaroslav Miller (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2010), 149–75. 18 The meticulous attention religious orders paid to their habits is satirised, for example, in the colloquy “Fish Diet.” See Desiderius Erasmus, The Colloquies of Erasmus, trans. Craig R. Thompson (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965), 356.
Martin Elbel Tunic purporting to be that of Saint Francis of Assisi, exhibited Gubbio, 2006.
how vain, futile, and even counter-productive these debates were, they were still worth pursuing, even for the orders going through thorough internal reform. The question of appearance was an important and very efficient element in all three orders’ propa ganda.19 Dressing the friars in a habit identical to that of St. Francis, and vice versa, that is, depicting St. Francis in the habit worn by friars at a given place and time, helped to manifest the continuity of the Franciscan charisma, and the coarse fabric, torn and patched, could at the same time express the most significant virtue of the order – a life of apostolic poverty. Last but not least, it could deliver the message to any town, village, or household the friars entered. With their disputes about the proper shape and colour of the habit, the friars had ventured onto very thin ice – meticulous attention paid to appearance had been one of the most criticised clerical vices in the Middle Ages. But the friars could hardly avoid it. The use of visual signs as means of communication was deeply rooted in the Franciscan tradition and was connected with their ability to find innovative and efficient ways to address people. Obviously, the main tool of the friars remained preaching, which could attract attention, instruct, and inspire the devotion of believers.20 But sermons are significantly limited by time, space, and language – one had to be present at a given time at a particular place and understand the preacher.21 It was only when they were accompanied by other means and activities that they were able to convey the Franciscan message efficiently and most of those means and activities had a strong visual dimension. Gestures, symbols, paintings, rituals, and devotions created a rich and complex Franciscan imagery, which had a strong impact on European (and later also non-European) cultures. When studying the activities of religious orders, and the Friars Minor in particular, the traditional approach has naturally focused on surviving texts and images.22 Sermons, 19 See Salvatore Abbruzzese, “Sociologia dell’abito religioso” [Sociology of the habits worn by religious order], in La sostanza dell’effimero: Gli abiti degli ordini religiosi in Occidente [Substance of the ephemeral: The habits worn by religious orders in the West], ed. Giancarlo Rocca (Roma: Edizioni Paoline, 2000), 119–23. 20 See, for example, Timothy J. Johnson, “The Franciscan Fascination with the World,” in Franciscans and Preaching: Every Miracle from the Beginning of the World Came about through Words, ed. Timothy J. Johnson (Leiden: Brill, 2012), 1–12. 21 See Lina Bolzoni, The Web of Images: Vernacular Preaching from Its Origins to St Bernardino da Siena, trans. Carole Preston and Lisa Chien (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004), 3–4. 22 See the extensive catalogue in William R. Cook, Images of St. Francis of Assisi in Painting, Stone and Glass
printed books, architecture, and paintings were indeed important means of communication. No account of Franciscan imagery, however, would be complete without another medium, the most eloquent and powerful of them all – the friars themselves. After all, this was a tradition initiated by Francis of Assisi himself. His life story – as recorded by Bonaventure and others – was a powerful conversion narrative about a journey from a sinful past, through the penance of the present, towards future salvation. Crucial moments in his life and his most famous deeds always contained strong visual and dramatic elements – his conversion, preaching to the birds, or the staging of the Nativity in Greccio.23 Francis deliberately created strong visual messages, which enabled him to communicate his main ideas to his fellow friars and the broader public.24 As the founding father of a movement Francis naturally provided a model for his followers.25 While his own activities were understood by his contemporaries as imitatio Christi, his friars in the following centuries often performed and systematically cultivated a tradition that could have been labelled imitatio Francisci.26 This art of performing the sacred was an extremely powerful and successful strategy in winning the hearts and minds of people. It also profoundly interconnected the past and the present, and thus legitimised Franciscan endeavours. The strength of this approach was that it could be applied not only at a general level but also at a local one, where it could substantially strengthen the ties between friars and urban communities. I can demonstrate this through the example of the Olomouc friary. In 1650 the friars returned to their Olomouc friary, which they had been forced to abandon a couple of years earlier during the Swedish occupation. The friars had to repair the church and the friary buildings and to re-establish their ties with the local population and prominent patrons. Amidst all this work, the superior of the friary began another job, which might have appeared at first glance to be a vain luxury. He began writing a chronicle which would recall what had been the Golden Age of the local Franciscan community. His sources were sparse but he succeeded in reconstructing the main outline of the friary’s history. Apart from basic dates and names, he also included some narrative passages, which depicted the miraculous deeds of individual friars in the community. Although the chronicle was intended for the eyes of the friars only, the records were constantly from the Earliest Images to ca. 1320 in Italy: A Catalogue (Firenze: L.S. Olschki, 1999). For the relationship between textual and visual sources see John V. Fleming, From Bonaventure to Bellini: An Essay in Franciscan Exegesis (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982), and Chiara Frugoni, Francesco e l’invenzione delle stimmate: Una storia per parole e immagini fino a Bonaventura e Giotto [Francis and the invention of stigmata: A story in words and images up to Bonaventura and Giotto] (Torino: Einaudi, 1993). 23 The Christmas scene with a crib, donkey, and ox had an especially strong impact on religious art and imagination. See Beth A. Mulvaney, “Standing on the Threshold: Beholder and Vision in the Assisi Crib at Greccio,” in Finding Saint Francis in Literature and Art, ed. Cynthia Ho, Beth A. Mulvaney, and John K. Downey (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 23–34. 24 See Rosalind B. Brooke, The Image of St Francis: Responses to Sainthood in the Thirteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 1. 25 See William R. Cook, “Introduction: The Early Italian Representations of Francis of Assisi,” in Beyond the Text: Franciscan Art and the Construction of Religion, ed. Xavier Seubert and Oleg Bychkov (New York: Franciscan Institute Publications, 2013), 8. 26 See Stanko Andrić, The Miracles of St. John Capistran (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2000), 70–71.
used by the friars in their interaction with the public. By means of sermons, images, and especially rituals, the stories were re-enacted and presented to the citizens of Olomouc.27 Two examples will illustrate this process. One of the most important names recorded in the chronicle was that of John of Meissen (died 1490). The chronicle praised him for his saintliness. John, it was claimed, had once even performed a miracle – he had resurrected a dead boy.28 A couple of pages later, the chronicler recorded another, more recent story. One day a frightful accident happened, when a little boy playing in the street fell under the wheels of a heavily loaded wagon and was seriously injured. The mother immediately brought the body, which showed no signs of life, to the highest local authority in matters of injury – the headman. He could only tell her that there was no hope. On the way home, the desperate mother entered a Franciscan church, where the vespers were about to begin. When the friars commenced their prayers, the child allegedly started breathing again and by the end of the service he had fully recovered. This miracle – in a way a parallel to that of John of Meissen – was subsequently commemorated by an annual ritual during which a boy, clad in Franciscan habit, presented a burning candle at the high altar of the church.29 The repetitive character of miracles and their performances is even more apparent in the second example. In 1495, so the chronicler claims, there was a severe storm and an earthquake during which fiendish powers threatened to destroy the entire city of Olomouc. They were stopped at the very last moment by Franciscan friars, who gathered in the church and, prostrated on the ground, started praying for the preservation of the city.30 This event was again commemorated in sermons and annual thanksgiving processions, which represented the friars as divine protectors of Olomouc and its inhabitants. But most notably, the story was repeatedly re-enacted during other storms and disasters which afflicted the city in the following centuries. In 1700, during a particularly heavy storm, lightning struck the spire of the Franciscan church, which toppled and broke through the ceiling of an adjacent chapel; the collapse caused havoc among the believers gathered in the church.31 The description of the storm again reads like a parallel to the original story from 1495. Heavy clouds, panic, apocalyptic chaos, and especially the behaviour of the friars – who kept calm, lay down on the ground and said their prayers – are presented as a re-enactment of the 1495 event. The Olomouc friars – and the Friars Minor in general – eventually restored their position, which had been seriously undermined by the Reformation of the sixteenth century. In order to achieve this they had to search for new means of communication which would enable them to re-negotiate their place in society. Interpretation and rep27 For a history of the Franciscans in the Lands of the Bohemian Crown see Martin Elbel, Bohemia Franciscana: Františkánský řád a jeho působení v českých zemích 17. a 18. století [Bohemia Franciscana: The Franciscan order and its activities in the lands of the Bohemian Crown in the seventeenth and eighteenth century] (Olomouc: Univerzita Palackého v Olomouci, 2001). 28 See Archivum Conventus Olomucensis, ca. 1650–1749, book 9, collection E 21, Franciscans of Dačice, Moravian Land Archive in Brno, 9. 29 See Archivum, 22. 30 See Archivum, 10. 31 See Archivum, 126–27.
resentation of their own past proved to be particularly powerful tools. These enabled the friars to construct strong and vital links between the past and the present and to legitimise their position. In spite of the invention and spread of the printing press, the key to success was an efficient combination of various visual representations that in the depiction of themselves, as well as their appearance and behaviour, proved to be a particularly impressive and efficient tool.
Bibliography Abbruzzese, Salvatore. “Sociologia dell’abito religioso.” In La sostanza dell’effimero: Gli abiti degli ordini religiosi in Occidente, edited by Giancarlo Rocca. Roma: Edizioni Paoline, 2000. 119–23. Andrić, Stanko. The Miracles of St. John Capistran. Budapest: Central European University Press, 2000. Archivum Conventus Olomucensis, ca. 1650-1749, book 9, collection E 21, Franciscans of Dačice, Moravian Land Archive in Brno. Bolzoni, Lina. The Web of Images: Vernacular Preaching from Its Origins to St Bernardino da Siena. Translated by Carole Preston and Lisa Chien. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003. Boverio, Zaccaria. De vera habitus forma, a Seraphico B. P. Francisco instituta, demonstrationes undecim. In Annalium seu sacrarum historiarum Ordinis minorum S. Francisci qui Capucini nuncupantur, tomus primus. Lugduni [Lyon]: Claudius Landry, 1632. Brooke, Rosalind B. The Image of St Francis: Responses to Sainthood in the Thirteenth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Burr, David. The Spiritual Franciscans: From Protest to Persecution in the Century after Saint Francis. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2003. Cook, William R. Images of St. Francis of Assisi in Painting, Stone and Glass from the Earliest Images to ca. 1320 in Italy: A Catalogue. Firenze: Olschki, 1999. Cook, William R. “Introduction: The Early Italian Representations of Francis of Assisi.” In Beyond the Text: Franciscan Art and the Construction of Religion, edited by Xavier Seubert and Oleg Bychkov. New York: Franciscan Institute Publications, 2013. 1–12. Cusato, Michael F., and Guy Geltner, eds. Defenders and Critics of Franciscan Life: Essays in Honor of John V. Fleming. Leiden: Brill, 2009. Cuthbert. The Capuchins: A Contribution to the History of the Counter-Reformation. 2 vols. London: Sheed and Ward, 1928. Dipple, Geoffrey. Antifraternalism and Anticlericalism in the German Reformation: Johann Eberlin von Günzburg and the Campaign against the Friars. Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1996. Elbel, Martin. Bohemia Franciscana: Františkánský řád a jeho působení v českých zemích 17. a 18. století. Olomouc: Univerzita Palackého v Olomouci, 2001. Elbel, Martin. “On the Side of the Angels: Franciscan Communication Strategies in Early Modern Bohemia.” In Religion and Cultural Exchange in Europe, 1400–1700, edited by Heinz Schilling and István G. Tóth. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. 338–59. Elbel, Martin. “The Making of a Perfect Friar: Habit and Reform in the Franciscan Tradition.” In Friars, Nobles and Burghers – Sermons, Images and Prints: Studies of Culture and Society in Early-Modern Europe, edited by László Kontler and Jaroslav Miller. Budapest: Central European University Press, 2010. 149–75. Erasmus, Desiderius. The Colloquies of Erasmus. Translated by Craig R. Thompson. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965.
Fleming, John V. From Bonaventure to Bellini: An Essay in Franciscan Exegesis. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982. Frugoni, Chiara. Francesco e l’invenzione delle stimmate: Una storia per parole e immagini fino a Bonaventura e Giotto. Torino: Einaudi, 1993. Hammond, Jay M. “Bonaventure’s Legenda Maior.” In A Companion to Bonaventure, edited by Jay M. Hammond, J. A. Wayne Hellmann, and Jared Goff. Leiden: Brill, 2013. 453–507. Iriarte, Lazaro. Franciscan History: The Three Orders of St. Francis of Assisi. Translated by Patricia Ross. Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1983. Johnson, Timothy J., ed. Franciscans and Preaching: Every Miracle from the Beginning of the World Came about through Words. Leiden: Brill, 2012. MacCulloch, Diarmaid. Reformation: Europe’s House Divided, 1490–1700. London: Penguin, 2004. Moorman, John. A History of the Franciscan Order from Its Origins to the Year 1517. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968. Mulvaney, Beth A. “Standing on the Threshold: Beholder and Vision in the Assisi Crib at Greccio.” In Finding Saint Francis in Literature and Art, edited by Cynthia Ho, Beth A. Mulvaney, and John K. Downey. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. 23–34. Nimmo, Duncan. Reform and Division in the Medieval Franciscan Order: From Saint Francis to the Foundations of the Capuchins. Rome: Capuchin Historical Institute, 1987. Pettegree, Andrew. Reformation and the Culture of Persuasion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Prudlo, Donald, ed. The Origin, Development, and Refinement of Medieval Religious Mendicancies. Leiden: Brill, 2011. Scribner, Robert W. For the Sake of Simple Folk: Popular Propaganda for the German Reformation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994. Szittya, Penn R. The Antifraternal Tradition in Medieval Literature. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986.
8 Lost in Pattern: Rococo Ornament and Its Journey to Contemporary Art through Wallpaper* Tomáš Jirsa One of the remarkable qualities of works of art is that, along with their ability to represent, that is, to show or depict, and to perform, that is, to actually do and cause, they also inspire, through their language and imagery, meanings, concepts, even theories. Rather than in images or words, this theoretical potential lurks through figures which, endowed with cultural memory, knowledge, and affects, disclose their own aesthetic space while also reaching out to other forms of art and different ways of reflection. Moreover, they make possible the encounter of the verbal and the sensory, meaning and emotion, the discursive and the non-discursive. One such figure is ornament, which emerges in various forms and incarnations, not only in the visual arts but also in literature and cinema. Instead of “figure,” some theorists use the term “theoretical figure.”1 It was used for the first time by J. W. T. Mitchell, an art, media, and literary theorist, when he tried to define another term of his, “the image/text.” Claiming that “the image/text” is “neither a method nor a guarantee of historical discovery” but “more like an aperture or cleavage in representation, a place where history might slip through the cracks,” he comes to the conclusion that it can best be described as a theoretical figure, “a site of dialectical tension, slippage and transformation.”2 My use of the term as “figure,” rather than “theoretical figure,” corresponds much more closely with that of Jean-François Lyotard, who in his Discours, Figure (1971) defines it as “a spatial manifestation that linguistic space cannot incorporate without being shaken, an exteriority it cannot interiorize as signification.”3 Jacques Aumont, a film theorist, uses the term “figure” to grasp the epistemological power of works of art that are far from being only aesthetic objects: “Image does its own ‘thinking’ through figures, if we are willing to fill the term figure with all the density of history that is much more than etymology.”4 The most comprehensive, even * This chapter is a result of the research financed by the Czech Science Foundation as the project GA ČR 13-23756P. Translated from Czech by Tereza Chocholová. 1 One of the reasons for this might be the polysemy of the word “figure.” The Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.) lists twenty-four lexical meanings of the word, divided into five interrelated semantic categories: a) form, shape; b) represented form, image, likeness; c) delineated or devised form, a design or pattern; d) a written character; e) in various uses, representing the technical applications of the Greek σχῆμα, for example, in “figure of speech.” However, J. Hillis Miller aptly notes that the “various meanings filtered out by the OED in particular examples are only a matter of emphasis in a specific usage, not a matter of exclusion. Any use of ‘figure’ shimmers figuratively with all its possible meanings.” J. Hillis Miller, “Figure,” in Perspectives croisées sur la figure: À la rencontre du lisible et du visible [The figure from multiple perspectives: On the encounter of the readable and the visible], ed. Bertrand Gervais and Audrey Lemieux (Montréal: Presses de l’Université du Québec, 2012), 57. Trans. Tomáš Jirsa. 2 J. W. T. Mitchell, Picture Theory: Essays on Verbal and Visual Representation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 104, 106. 3 Jean-François Lyotard, Discourse, Figure, trans. Mary Lydon and Antony Hudek (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011), 7. 4 Jacques Aumont, À quoi pensent les films [What films think about] (Paris: Séguier, 1996), 170. Trans. Tomáš Jirsa.
though rather vague, definition of figure can be found in Bertrand Gervais’s and Audrey Lemieux’s introduction to their anthology Perspectives croisées sur la figure: À la rencontre du lisible et du visible (2012): “Figure is a dynamic sign, the main feature of which is lability that is typical of the imaginary. Its functions are diverse: it is a focus of expectation but it can also serve as an interface or a mediator; it incites and provokes multifarious reactions and discourses, includes the affectivity of the subject who approaches it, and sometimes also plays the role of an interpretation principle.”5 My understanding of ornament as a specific type of figure is then, logically, in direct opposition to its traditional reductive reading as a decoration, an additional motif that comes from outside and has no influence on the inner structure or composition of a work of art. It is rather based on the work of those who consider ornament to be a non-mimetic, abstract, stylised, and dynamic form, the aesthetic and epistomological importance of which does not lie in what it represents or symbolises, or in the manner in which it decorates something but in the ways in which it moves across images and historical epochs and dissolves the border between centre and periphery, surface and depth, dominant and detail, as well as other hierarchies of meaning.6 In his 1934 book La vie des formes (published in English in 1942 as Life of Forms in Art), the art historian Henri Focillon stated that ornament not only exists “in and of itself, but it also shapes its own environment – to which it imparts a form.”7 This invites a question: if a person gets close to an ornament, can she or he become one of its extensions as well? One of the kinds of ornament which has found an inconspicuous place in visual and literary space is wallpaper, with its decorative patterns stretching across the walls of interiors, including fictional ones. Like any ornament, wallpaper is not mere decoration but can shape, haunt, or grasp human beings that appear in proximity to it, and under certain circumstances can become an active participant in a narrative.8 Drawing on contemporary theories of the ornament and using an excerpt from the novel Pnin (1957) by Vladimir Nabokov, an autobiographical account of the Dutch histo rian Frank Ankersmit, the film Såsom i en spegel (Through a Glass Darkly, 1961) by Ingmar Bergman, and the artwork of two contemporary Czech visual artists, Michal Pěchouček 5 Bertrand Gervais and Audrey Lemieux, “À la rencontre du lisible et du visible,” in Perspectives croisées sur la figure, 1. Trans. Tomáš Jirsa. 6 As early as 1893, Alois Riegl, in his Stilfragen, presented the ornament as an embodiment of the vitality, vigour and robustness of a culture, an expression of the immediate relation of all forms of art to the physical manifestations of nature, and emphasised its non-mimetic, abstract, and stylised character; after him, Wilhelm Worringer in Abstraktion und Einfühlung (1907) saw in abstract and geometrical ornamental lines, which are, in his opinion, rhythmic and substantially self-referential, the beginning of all art. See Alois Riegl, Problems of Style: Foundations for a History of Ornament, trans. Evelyn Kain (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992); and Wilhelm Worringer, Abstraction and Empathy: A Contribution to the Psychology of Style, trans. Michael Bullock (1953; Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1997). 7 Henri Focillon, Life of Forms in Art, trans. Charles B. Hogan and George Kubler (1942; New York: Zone Books, 1996), 66. 8 The first mention of European production of wallpaper, wall decorations consisting of recurring identical motifs engraved from blocks of wood (so-called “dominoes”), appears in the Netherlands in ca. 1418. For more about the history of wallpaper see Carolle Thibaut-Pomerantz, Wallpaper: A History of Style and Trends, trans. Deke Dusinberre and Carolle Thibaut-Pomerantz (Paris: Flammarion, 2009), 10–31.
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and Jan Šerých, I will demonstrate that wallpaper surfaces represent a remarkable form of survival of Rococo ornament and at the same time suggest that the ornament might contribute to a figural, non-chronological, and aesthetic reflection of art history.
Nabokov’s Pnin and the Demiurge behind the Wallpaper In the introductory passage of Nabokov’s novel Pnin, the ironic narrator depicts the heart attack of the eponymous protagonist on a park bench. In the dazed state of his illness, Pnin slowly immerses himself in his childhood, taking the reader to the space of his memory. As a little eleven-year-old patient, swathed in a damp and cold cloth as “a poor cocooned pupa,” half-choked by a bundle of sheets, numbed by pain, fear, and the feverish buzzing in his head, he observes the decorative design on the “four-section screen of polished wood” dividing his bed, moving on to the wall decoration, where “familiar shapes became the breeding places of evil delusions.”9 Nabokov continues: Still more oppressive was his tussle with the wallpaper. He had always been able to see that in the vertical plane a combination made up of three different clusters of purple flowers and seven different oak leaves was repeated a number of times with soothing exactitude; but now he was bothered by the undismissible fact that he could not find what system of inclusion and circumscription governed the horizontal recurrence of the pattern . . . . It stood to reason that if the evil designer – the destroyer of minds, the friend of fever – had concealed the key of the pattern with such monstrous care, that key must be as precious as life itself and, when found, would regain for Timofey Pnin his everyday health, his everyday world; and this lucid – alas, too lucid – thought forced him to persevere in the struggle.10
It is symptomatic that the memory rises up in Pnin’s mind at a moment when he is close to death. Pnin also experiences an almost mystical communion with the surrounding landscape: “This sensation poor Pnin experienced was something very like that divestment, that communion. He felt porous and pregnable.”11 The whole situation becomes even more paradoxical when the third-person narrator points out that a human being “exists only insofar as he is separated from his surroundings.”12 The cohesion of Pnin’s world is thus complicated in several ways. Pnin finds himself on the thin line between life and mortal agony, straddling the present moment and the scenery of a memory, and, what is more, he is not merely an observing and ill body, but, in addition to that, he becomes shaped and structured by the wallpapered space. Through his delirious gaze, he is drawn into a hallucination, provoked by the wallpaper pattern which he tries to comprehend and decipher. Nabokov’s predilection for wallpaper is not only proved by its repeated use across his own texts, for example, in one of his early poems “Temno-sinie oboi. . .” (Dark-blue wallpaper. . .) from the almanach Dva puti (Two Paths, 1918, with Andrei Balashov), or 9 Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin (1957; New York: Vintage International, 1989), 23. 10 Nabokov, Pnin, 23. 11 Nabokov, Pnin, 20. 12 Nabokov, Pnin, 20.
his novels Korol’, Dama, Valet (1928, in English in a revised version as King, Queen, Knave, 1968) and Dar (1938, uncensored edition 1952, in English as The Gift, 1963). There is also an anecdote related to the author’s engagement at Cornell University in 1958 and his unusual way of teaching literary history with a legendary emphasis on and sensitivity towards detail: When the exam came on March 19, he asked the students a question they would never forget, even if they could not recall the answer: “Describe the wallpaper in the Karenins’ bedroom.” Answer: part 4, chapter 17: Anna, expected to die of puerperal fever, . . . points at the wallpaper and exclaims, “How tastelessly these flowers are done, not at all like violets.”13
This hermeneutics of wallpaper, or looking for a clue to the wallpaper pattern, as well as a desire to discover the system and enter the world of the image, represents in Pnin not only a hope of recovery and a rational distance of the observing subject from the hallucination-provoking object, but also the possibility of a shift from the real to the phantasmic14 world: “And although the witness and victim of these phantasms was tucked up in bed, he was, in accordance with the twofold nature of his surroundings, simultaneously seated on a bench in a green and purple park.”15 The wallpaper pattern first represents a thera peutic riddle, which, if solved, could rid little Pnin of his illness, and later gradually assumes the form of a hallucinatory vehicle, enabling an imaginary as well as physical shift across space and time, between the completely different worlds of then and now. What is polymorphous here is not only the world and identity of the protagonist; a certain ambivalence can also be ascribed to “the evil designer” (“the destroyer of minds, the friend of fever”) who is created by the mind of the delirious Pnin. At the same time, however, the evil designer is the demiurge of the whole depicted world, the creator of the diegesis, and the ruler of the language. In this tense passage, the text mirrors itself: both the delirious child and the adult Pnin are simultaneously found on the park bench, while the narrator lurks from behind the wallpaper pattern – naturally with a mirror in his hand. The purple flowers and oak leaves of the wall decoration thus provide the hermeneutic key, and not only for the protagonist; the lucid thought leading to its discovery is also meant for the reader, who weaves his way through the text just as little Pnin does through the wallpaper pattern. The texture of the enigmatic wallpaper, hiding and revealing its demiurge, is analogous to the tissue of the whole text, in which the designer is convicted by no one other than Pnin himself towards the end of the novel.16 13 Brian Boyd, Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), 358. For more detail about the motif of wallpaper in Nabokov’s works, see Paul D. Morris, Vladimir Nabokov: Poetry and the Lyric Voice (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011), 285–300. 14 I use the term phantasm as it is employed in contemporary psychoanalysis, that is, as an imaginary scenario embodying the realisation of a certain conscious or unconscious desire. See Jean Laplanche and JeanBertrand Pontalis, Vocabulaire de la psychanalyse [The language of psychoanalysis], 5th ed. (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2007), 152. 15 Nabokov, Pnin, 24. 16 Several authors noticed the possible analogy between the “evil designer” and the narrator, revealed at the end of the novel, for example Adam Weinar, who, however, points out that the very metatextual “alas” inside the parentheses reveals the narrator’s (the author is rather speaking about Nabokov here) resentment at the
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His embittered outcry during a communal dinner makes this analogy even more obvious: “Now, don’t believe a word he [the narrator called Vladimir Vladimirovich] says . . . . He makes up everything. . . . He is a dreadful inventor . . .”17 Thus the “evil designer,” the choreographer of the delirious scene, drawing both Pnins, the eleven-year-old and the adult, into the hallucinatory logic of the wallpaper pattern, becomes a “dreadful inventor” in the adult Pnin’s defiant gesture against his status of a mere invention, reminding us of the rebellion of theatre characters against their author in Luigi Pirandello’s Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore (1921, in English as Six Characters in Search of an Author, 1922).18
From the Birth of Rocaille to the Broken Frame But what are those floral motifs on the wallpaper observed and activated by the delirious child’s gaze and at the same time by the adult Pnin during his heart attack? It should be noted that what I am discussing here is not simply a natural image, but a pattern which is defined as a non-mimetic abstraction or design, a linear condensation – an ornament that does not represent natural forms, but rather suggests and evokes their vivacity.19 The ornamental patterns inspired by floral vegetation thus, in Oleg Grabar’s words, “evoke growth and movement without falling into representation.”20 To understand this ornament, let us turn to the Rococo period, which is commonly associated with its supposedly shallow and superficial decorative attributes, although a fleeting glance at a few products of this intermedial style will show the significance it may have for aesthetic reflection. Jacques de Lajoue: Second livre de tableaux et rocailles (The Second Book of Pictures and Ornaments, 1734) Source: Hermann Bauer, Rocaille: Zur Herkunft und zum Wesen eines Ornament-Motivs [Rocaille: Towards the origin and character of some ornamental motifs] (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1962).
possibility that he would be identified with the “dreadful inventor.” See Adam Weinar, By Authors Possessed: The Demoniac Novel in Russia (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1998), 191–92. 17 Nabokov, Pnin, 185. 18 See Luigi Pirandello, Six Characters in Search of an Author, trans. Edward Storer (1922; Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1998). 19 Here I draw on Oleg Grabar’s The Mediation of Ornament (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992), but also on texts that elaborate on the non-mimetic and self-referential notion of the ornament on the backdrop of aesthetics and philosophy, primarily La vérité en peinture (1978, in English as The Truth in Painting, 1987) by Jacques Derrida. See also Karsten Harries, The Broken Frame: Three Lectures (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1989). 20 Oleg Grabar, The Mediation of Ornament, 224.
In the first half of the eighteenth century, a fabulous “aesthetic revolution” took place thanks to several French visual artists and architects serving at the court of Louis XV The engravings of Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier, Jacques de Lajoue, and Françoise de Cuvilliés introduced a new form of ornament called rocaille. This was composed of diverse modifications of the motif of a shell along with richly intertwined C-shaped curves and lines. The form is most visible in Meissonier’s engravings, in which, as the leading researcher in the field of Rococo art and architecture, Karsten Harries, observed, the shell is “transformed into an almost abstract, endlessly malleable material, out of which the artist molds landscapes and fantastic architectures.”21 According to Harries, the form of the rocaille is born at the very moment “when the shell motif, a common element of the edges and frames of grotesques, becomes the center of the composition.”22 The ornament refuses to yield to its carrier, the frame, leaving the edge of the picture and invading its centre to become an autonomous aesthetic object. During the Rococo period, ornament ceases to stand for mere decoration, an embel lishment independent of the overall structure, turning instead into a dominant visual feature. At first glance, there is nothing dramatic about this but under closer scrutiny, within the spectacular representations of stone stairways, fountains, or human figures that adopt the undulating, almost dancing movement of the surrounding architecture, something takes place that defies the notion of the ornament which has prevailed in Western aesthetic discourse until today and was introduced and defined by Immanuel Kant in his Kritik der Urteilskraft (1790, in English as Critique of Judgment, 1892) via the notion of parergon, which signifies not only a non-functional embellishment but also a decorative supplement that does not participate in the inner structure of the work of art: Even what we call ornaments (parerga), i.e., what does not belong to the whole presentation of the object as an intrinsic constituent, but [is] only an extrinsic addition, does indeed increase our taste’s liking, and yet it too does so only by its form, as in the case of picture frames, or drapery on statues, or colonnades around magnificent buildings. On the other hand, if the ornament itself does not consist in beautiful form but is merely attached, as a gold frame is to a painting so that its charm may commend the painting for our approval, then it impairs genuine beauty and is called finery.23
Let me mention in this context that approximately half a century before Kant’s treatise, the richly illustrated book Livre d’ornemens (1734), designed by Juste Aurèle Meissonnier,
21 Karsten Harries, The Bavarian Rococo Church: Between Faith and Aestheticism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983), 10. 22 Karsten Harries draws here on the work of Hermann Bauer, who, in his groundbreaking book Rocaille: Zur Herkunft und zum Wesen eines Ornament-Motivs (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter 1962), “ties the origin of rocaille to the development of French grotesque ornament, a characteristic of which is the joining of two different spatial logics, one ornamental, the other pictorial. The grotesque depends on that oscillation between picture and ornament.” Harries, The Bavarian Rococo Church, 22. 23 Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Judgment, trans. Werner S. Pluhar (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1987), 72. Italics in the original.
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was published,24 with the dynamic ornamental curves meandering in the form of waves and shells showing indomitable imagination and interconnecting the two-dimensional linearity of the decorative frame with the depth of the inner world of the painting, curves that are nothing but a vigorous deconstruction of Kant’s extrinsic quality.25 When confronted with Kant’s category of the parergon, the visual movement of the Rococo ornamental line functions like its ironic commentary, which is much closer to the way this term is grasped by Jacques Derrida in his La vérité en peinture (1978). As suggested by the very etymology of the term, based on the connection of the Greek word ergon (work) and para (above, beyond, beside), the parergon is conceived by Derrida as something strongly “a-topical” – an element which is not a work of art itself but also does not exist beyond it, is neither inside, nor outside. It represents a certain complement to the work while existing only when it is in touch with it.26 Like the Rococo ornament, whose lines move freely between the frame and the centre of the image, the Derridean parergon too dissolves the alleged boundaries between the interior and exterior of the work, disrupting the hierarchic opposition of the visual centre and the decorative periphery, and, last but not least, challenging the very notion of the “central” dominant and the “added” element. What is more, it complicates this dichotomy not only in the image but also in itself: What constitutes them as parerga is not simply their exteriority as a surplus, it is the internal structural link which rivets them to the lack in the interior of the ergon. And this lack would be constitutive of the very unity of the ergon. Without this lack, the ergon would have no need of a parergon. The ergon’s lack is the lack of a parergon, of the garment or the column which nevertheless remains exterior to it.27
It is not only that the shell-like Rococo landscapes and architecture problematise the classical two-dimensional character of painting and the hierarchy of meaning, as well as the boundaries dividing the world of representation and the world of the observer; rocaille even challenges one of the few existing certainties of the period’s artistic rendition: representation. As Frank Ankersmit emphasises in his article “Rococo as the Dissipation of Boredom,” the relation between reality and ornament is overturned, as the 24 On Meissonnier’s book see, for example, Harries, The Bavarian Rococo Church, 10–15. The volume Livre d’ornemens [The book of ornaments] was reprinted, with an introduction by Dorothea Nyberg, as Œuvre de Juste Aurèle Meissonnier [The work of Juste Aurèle Meissonnier] ([New York]: Benjamin Blom, 1969). See also Frank Ankersmit, Sublime Historical Experience (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005), 289–99. 25 The extent to which Kant’s notion is still relevant and used today is proved by the fact that Étienne Souriau’s authoritative and repeatedly updated aesthetic dictionary characterises the ornament in an almost identical way: “To ornament (orner) means to add external components to something for the purpose of embellishing its appearance. An ornament is thus an additional element. The two features that define the ornament are the following: 1) its purpose that consists in enhancing the already finished work, and 2) its non-functional character within the very structure of the work.” Étienne Souriau, “Orner/ Ornement/Ornemental,” in Vocabulaire d’esthétique (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2004), 1100. 26 See Jacques Derrida, The Truth in Painting, trans. Geoff Bennington and Ian McLeod (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 9. 27 Derrida, The Truth in Painting, 69. Italics in the original.
real world, with its nature and living beings, is no longer a source of mimesis: “Rococo ornament invades reality by ornament: the objects of representation adapt themselves to ornament.”28 The frame which had kept the distance between the fictional world and the actual world has been broken. It is on the basis of this overturned representation and disrupted framing that Harries shows the Rococo as a period of transition between old art, faithful to representation, and modern art, tending to abstraction.29 When analysing the copper plate entitled Der Liebe Morgen (An Amorous Morning) by the German engraver Johann Esaias Nilson (from ca. 1770), Harries demonstrates in detail how the originally purely functional frame, whose task is primarily to delimit the painting and enhance its autonomy, becomes a self-referential frame, drawing attention to itself while activating a playful deconstruction of the world being depicted as well as the frame. In this engraving, a distinctive fracture appears in the frame, and it is this very broken frame – both representing and self-referential – that becomes a metaphor of the onset of modern art.30 Looking back at Meissonier’s engravings, it appears that the broken frame is primarily an event in which exuberant and prolific ornamental forms take part. As observed by Ankersmit, “ornamental forms have penetrated into the picture center; they are emancipated from the status of being merely decoration and have become themselves potential objects of depiction.”31 The wavy curves of the Rococo ornament thus become part of both the frame delimiting the space of the engraving and the architecture depicted in the engraving. By this subversive movement, ornament dissolves the boundary between representation and ornamentalisation; even to the degree of essentially representing itself. Ankersmit reflects on this process in the following way: Ornament has invaded representable reality, but in doing so, it has changed the nature of both reality and itself. Ornament transformed itself from being mere decoration into a reality as real as real trees and real palace architecture, and as a result of this ornamental hubris, decorative forms came to be just as much potential objects of representation as the normal objects of perception. Obviously, reality was not unaffected. Reality itself was now forced to adapt to the strange forms of rococo ornament.”32
Rococo ornament, moving from the periphery of the image into its centre, thus becomes an autonomous and dominant aesthetic feature, and shapes the world that is depicted, no matter whether it is a landscape, architecture, or human figures. As I will demonstrate, the historical trajectories of these vital lines do not end in the Rococo period by any means. On the contrary, because of the crack in the frame, the ornamental curves have grown out of it to assume new forms in other places and at other times. These new 28 Frank Ankersmit, “Rococo as the Dissipation of Boredom,” in Compelling Visuality: The Work of Art in and out of History, ed. Claire Farago and Robert Zwijnenberg (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), 150. 29 See Karsten Harries, The Broken Frame, 81. 30 See Harries, The Broken Frame, 78–82; and Harries, The Bavarian Rococo Church, 37–38. 31 Ankersmit, “Rococo as the Dissipation of Boredom,” 144. Italics in the original. 32 Ankersmit, “Rococo as the Dissipation of Boredom,” 146. Italics in the original.
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forms may fail to represent any existing object or image but, without any doubt, they do represent – and at the same time create – their own aesthetic past.
Ankersmit’s Dissipation of Boredom and Bergman’s Hallucinatory Screen Let us return to the relation between the wallpaper pattern and the observing subject which plays a crucial role in Nabokov’s novel, both for the illumination of the “twofold” world of the protagonist and for the self-revealing play of the narrating demiurge, and which has been elaborated by Frank Ankersmit in the context of Rococo ornament. As suggested by the very title of his study, Ankersmit draws on the experience of boredom during the frequent illnesses in his childhood. In a state recalling that of Nabokov’s little Pnin, he was forced to stay in bed for days, tangled in the bedsheets, idly watching his surroundings: “Overwhelmed by boredom, I often felt a peculiar fascination for the flower patterns on the curtains in my parents’ bedroom. And I am convinced of an intimate connection between those feelings of boredom on the one hand and fascination on the other.”33 It is this extraordinary combination of boredom (characterised by Ankersmit as a temporary suspension of the interaction between ourselves and the world, with reality manifesting its true nature undistorted by our preoccupations) and fascination (as a tantalising and unfulfilled promise of a fusion between the subject and object)34 – that creates a prerequisite for the wallpaper to come alive. If we refrain from viewing the particular design as a mimetic representation of a real flower and perceive it instead as a real pattern or figure independent of the referent, as Ankersmit suggests, we will see how the shapes on the wallpaper start intertwining and assuming new forms. What can attract our attention is not only the given pattern and its background but any “foreign” element: a stain, a bulge, or a rip. What is equally essential for the nature of the ornamental figure in the form of the wallpaper pattern is the fact that it lacks a fixed frame. Thus it can deliberately leave the space of the wall and enter the surrounding space of the interior, blending with its universe. What is more, by this very absence of a frame it draws the viewer to its realm, to the exuberant and confusing ornamental zone. The fissure of the Rococo frame, as well as the non-mimetic and self-referential character of the wallpaper pattern, results in an affective and aesthetic phenomenon that was captured and developed by modern literature, film, and the visual arts. When Ankersmit writes about the fusion of subject and object when confronted with flower patterns,35 he implies a certain phantasmic potential of the ornament, which I will analyse later through several examples. The radical invasion of the imaginary force of wallpaper into lived space is described by several modernist texts besides Nabokov’s novel, primarily in the almost paradig matic short story “The Yellow Wall-paper” (1892) by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the novel 33 Ankersmit, “Rococo as the Dissipation of Boredom,” 132. 34 See Ankersmit, “Rococo as the Dissipation of Boredom,” 132. 35 See Ankersmit, “Rococo as the Dissipation of Boredom,” 132.
Tomáš Jirsa Ingmar Bergman, dir., Såsom i en Spegel (Through a Glass Darkly, 1961). Karin (Harriet Andersson), listening to the whispering coming from behind the wallpaper. Camera: Sven Nykvist.
Petersburg (1913, in English 1958) by Andrei Bely, and the prose tales Sklepy cynamonowe (1934, in English as The Street of Crocodiles, 1977) and Sanatorium pod klepsydrą (1937, in English as Sanatorium under the Sign of the Hourglass, 1979) by Bruno Schulz. As there is not enough space for a detailed analysis here, let me merely recall that in the case of Perkins Gilman, a young, emotionally disturbed female protagonist becomes a voluntary prisoner in her wallpapered room, gradually becoming obsessed by the spectres that are looming behind the soiled wallpaper and stains and merging with her; in Bely’s novel, the wallpaper pattern creates a hallucinatory scene from which terrifying faces and figures emerge, pursuing one of the protagonists; and in the case of Schulz, the wallpaper represents an exuberant phantasmagoric landscape which not only enters the world of the characters but also takes over their physiognomy. Despite their diverse poetics and contexts, the texts share the fascinated and at the same time terrified gaze fixed on the wallpaper pattern, which comes alive and becomes a pattern of their insanity in the course of the narrative.36 Ingmar Bergman, too, was aware of the creative yet pathological potential of wall paper patterns, confronting in his film Såsom i en spegel a space filled with wall ornaments with a protagonist whose mental state is as unpredictable as the subversive logic of those ornaments.37 In what is probably the most enigmatic scene of the film, the protagonist 36 See Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wall-paper,” in The Norton Anthology of American Literature, ed. Nina Baym et al. (New York: Gale, 1996), 230–37; Andrei Bely, Petersburg: A Novel in Eight Chapters with a Prologue and an Epilogue, trans. David McDuff (London: Penguin, 1995); Bruno Schulz, The Street of Crocodiles, trans. Celine Wieniewska (London: Penguin, 1977); Bruno Schulz, Sanatorium under the Sign of the Hourglass, trans. Celine Wieniewska (New York: Penguin, 1979). 37 In this context, the Swedish film critic Torsten Jungstedt emphasises the influence of Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wall-paper,” which he allegedly gave Bergman to read. The director is said to have used it as a basis for his unrealised film Wallpaper, which was to have been his first colour film. Bergman, however, claims that the film is based on an original idea from his own life experience which he had already used in a scene written for the unrealised film Prison, in which the female protagonist Brigitta-Carolina takes a walk after making love with a poet and can hear whispers from distorted, laughing mouths showing up
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Karin, who suffers from schizophrenia, sets out for an abandoned attic room at dawn, accompanied by the blowing of a distant ship’s siren. At the moment when she appears in front of the faded and torn wallpaper, the camera reveals the shimmers of the rising sun on the leafy wallpaper pattern, as well as a black crack that emits whispering, hallucinatory female and male voices to which Karin listens in her white nightgown. Immediately afterwards she steps back, her body contorts in a cramp and she falls to her knees in a state evoking a sudden seizure, as well as erotic ecstasy, accompanied by the constant murmur of voices.38 The sensuality of her gestures is intensified by the involvement of other senses, as the visual movement of the wallpaper pattern is accompanied by acoustic illusions and a physical, tactile dimension is proved by the head and palms touching the wall. As her hands hit the floor and her body falls down to the ground, the voices and the rapture die away. The fact that the hallucinatory voices are heard behind the torn wallpaper pattern is in no way accidental; by means of its exuberant, yet rhythmic movement on the wall, the ornament visually enhances the whole hallucinatory scene.39 As we learn later during Karin’s conversation with her brother Minus in the same room, these expeditions to the voices behind the wallpaper take place regularly at dawn. With a mysterious smile and a sensually open mouth, Karin depicts how she once pressed herself against the wall in a desire to get closer to the voice luring her inside, the wall opened up “like foliage,” and she appeared inside. She then tells the terrified Minus about a light, spacious, and quiet room full of human figures walking around, whose faces were lit up in the expectation of God. However, the God who comes to Karin in the final dramatic scene through a closet door plastered with wallpaper is not the longed-for God of love, but a stony-faced spider that tries to rape her. Essential to my argument is the fact that Karin’s merging with the leafy wallpaper pattern, as well as the arrival of God from behind the wall, are not depicted by Bergman in a direct way, but are kept on the latent, imaginary level of Karin’s vision.
in the background of a wallpaper pattern. See Frank Gado, The Passion of Ingmar Bergman (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1986), 272. 38 Gado interprets the convulsive movement of the protagonist as an explicit act of masturbation. There is no reason to disagree with this interpretation, I nevertheless believe that the scene – like another one which is interpreted unequivocally both by Gado and by another expert on Bergman’s work, Egil Tömqvist, as an act of incest – is much more essential and cannot be fully grasped through the explanation of what Karin is “really” doing. In case of the presumed and implied incest, the question is even more irrelevant as we simply cannot see a sexual act between the siblings. See Gado, The Passion of Ingmar Bergman, 270–72, and Egil Törnqvist, Between Stage and Screen: Ingmar Bergman Directs (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 1995), 152. 39 The relation between the rules of ornament and the creative force of schizophrenia was explored primarily by the psychiatrist Leo Navratil, who found identical stylistic elements in the “ornamental rhythm of hallucinatory creative states,” typical especially of mannerism as an artistic and ideological movement, and in the written language, as well as in the visual (graphic) expression of schizophrenics. See Leo Navratil, Schizophrénie et art [Schizophrenia and art] (Bruxelles: Presses Universitaires de France, 1978), 29–31. For a detailed study of the relation between the ornament and texts written by schizophrenics, see my work Fyziognomie psaní: V záhybech literárního ornamentu [Physiognomy of writing: In the folds of literary ornament] (Praha: Filozofická fakulta Univerzity Karlovy, 2012), 161–80.
Seeing Spectres in Random Lines: Pareidolia The gaze of the protagonists observing wallpaper forms its own imaginary space out of the individual patterns, linear designs, rips, and stains, populating it with voices, figures, and faces. This gaze elicits a response; the wallpaper, too, observes the subject, seizing it by means of its exuberant floral landscape, as well as by means of its hallucinatory and phantasmic world. The act of looking at non-mimetic patterns, as well as rips in the wallpaper, can also be understood in the context of the ancient tradition, especially in painting, of discovering concrete, usually anthropomorphic or animal forms in accidental forms and on diverse surfaces (for example, in a cracked wall or a rock structure) which was already explored by Leonardo da Vinci and Piero di Cosimo. In his Trattato della pitura (1542, in English as Treatise on Painting, 1835)40 da Vinci perceives this remarkable invention with slight disdain, arguing with Botticelli’s provocative statement that it is rather useless to study landscape painting as landscapes can also be observed in random stains on the wall after a sponge soaked in colour has been hurled against it.41 Elsewhere, however, da Vinci postulates this phenomenon as a practical creative method, ranking it among inventions that, “though apparently trifling, and almost laughable,” are “of great utility in assisting the genius to find variety for composition.” He gives the following advice to painters: By looking attentively at old and smeared walls, or stones and veined marble of various colors, you may fancy that you see in them several compositions, landscapes, battles, figures in quick motion, strange countenances, and dresses, with an infinity of other objects. By these confused lines the inventive genius is excited to new exertions.42
Contemporary art history, supported by neuroscience, defines this phenomenon as pareidolia (from the Greek para: beyond, behind; and eidōlon: image, form, shape), explaining its anthropological origin by the natural human tendency, conditioned by evolution, to see human and animal forms in random patterns.43 Moreover, recent psychiatric research has demonstrated a close relation between the visual mechanism of pareidolia, for example, seeing faces in clusters of stains or clouds, and the way imagination functions during hallucinations.44 An almost identical phenomenon was noted by Immanuel Kant in his Träume eines Geistersehers (1788, in English as Dreams of a Spirit-Seer, 1900) in connection with visions that appear to people in states of extreme mental derangement, for example during fever, inebriation, or trance, blurring the boundary between images created by imagination and those which appear as really present to the external senses. Kant labels the persistence of 40 Leonardo da Vinci’s individual texts had been in the process of being written since 1490 but were published for the first time, under the title Trattato della pitura, in 1542. 41 See Leonardo da Vinci, A Treatise on Painting, trans. John Francis Rigaud (1835; Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2005), 149–50. 42 Leonardo da Vinci, A Treatise on Painting, 62. 43 See David Melcher and Patrick Cavanagh, “Pictorial Cues in Art and in Visual Perception,” in Art and the Senses, ed. Francesca Bacci and David Melcher (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 365; see also Daniel E. Haycock, Being and Perceiving (London: Manupod Press, 2011), 272. 44 See Melcher and Cavanagh, “Pictorial Cues in Art and in Visual Perception,” 366.
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these illusions as “deception,” and though he analyses this state from a strictly rational distance, the tone of a distinct fascination provoked by its intensity cannot be missed: Furthermore, as the disease of the visionary concerns not so much the reason, as a deception of the senses, it will be easily recognized that the unfortunate subject cannot remove the delusion by any reasoning; for a true or apparent impression of the senses precedes all the judgments of the reason, and carries with it immediate evidence, far excelling all other persuasion.45
While the optical illusions of these pathological states have purely organic causes (resulting from a temporary distortion of brain synapses and the resulting deflection of the visual field), Kant finds a powerful analogy in the state between sleep and waking. When waking up, “we often regard with drowsy and half-opened eyes the variegated threads of the bed-curtains, or of the covering, or the small spots of the nearest wall, and easily form out of them figures of human faces and similar things.”46 As soon as waking overcomes drowsiness and our concentrated attention focuses on the figures being observed, the illusion disappears. Kant thus implicitly reveals the anthropological basis of pareidolia, extending it to a way of seeing that is not fully controlled by our consciousness; a way of seeing that, rather than passively perceiving external impulses according to the laws of optics, is active, coinventing the observed forms. While da Vinci conceived this way of seeing as a conscious strategy of stimulating imagination that essentially pertains to craftsmanship, Kant’s half-awake vision, composing random material lines into anthropomorphic shapes, silhouettes, and patterns, leads to uncontrollable and acute sources of imagination that are probably shared collectively. Despite the fact that our waking awareness knows that a stain is merely a stain and a pattern nothing but a pattern, the phantom created by our active vision in moments of deception, as far as its affective and imaginary stimulation is concerned, is as real as the wall from which it detached.
Between Excess and Absence: The Mad Patterns of Michal Pěchouček and Jan Šerých The phantasm of the merging of the subject and object, and the mutual shaping of the physiognomy of man and his surrounding space, take place to the fullest extent and on a clearly visual level in a 2004 video by the contemporary multimedia artist Michal Pěchouček. Its title Kočárkárna (Pram Room) alludes to the socialist era, with its enthusiasm for large prefab housing estates characterised by what Pěchouček calls the “ugly design” of the 1980s, representing “a moving image of downfall and lost illusions.”47 The visual narrative indicates the suicide of a desperate and lonely woman, presented through a sequence of ghostly scenes; photographic images move vertically in an escalating rhythm, accompanied by rumbling industrial noises and crescendoed howling, 45 Immanuel Kant, Dreams of a Spirit-Seer, Illustrated by Dreams of Metaphysics, trans. Emanuel Goerwitz, ed. Frank Sewall (London: Swan Sonnenschein, 1900), 82. 46 Kant, Dreams of a Spirit-Seer, 81. 47 Martin Mazanec, “Michal Pěchouček,” Labyrint revue, no. 21–22 (2007): 86. Trans. Tereza Chocholová.
Tomáš Jirsa Michal Pěchouček, dir., Kočárkárna (Pram Room, 2004), video, 14 min, 26 sec; courtesy of Michal Pěchouček.
featuring the artist himself representing the female protagonist. By means of photographs of indeterminate spaces, the viewer descends to an underground landscape, only to appear in a few moments in the high-rise flat of the protagonist, to be precise, in a wallpapered bedroom where a veritable explosion of decorative patterns takes place. In one of the most striking and colourful scenes, viewers find themselves inside a bizarre indoor greenhouse where it is not plants that reign but – oddly enough – flower patterns spread all over the wall, the housecoat, and the blanket. The entire surface is covered, except for the face of the protagonist, whose wide-eyed expression emphasises even more the uncanniness of the whole scene. Paradoxical as it may sound, considering all the floral opulence, the image suggests neither vivacity nor dynamic vegetative growth. Motion seems to be frozen and its stiff choreography prefigures the later suicide motif. Instead of being grotesque, the ornamental excess provokes a feeling of oppressive solitude and enclosed space. As a result, the human figure turns into a living corpse, a literal enactment of the metaphoric expression “pushing up the daisies.” The protagonist acts as a subject as well as an object of the lifeless still life. The importance of the morbid dimension also lies in the fact that the image transforms the flowery patterns into elements of the narrative. Having left the fabric and wall surfaces, they enter the diegetic space of the story and announce the protagonist’s death. The photographic “tableau” makes a completely different impression if it is reframed.48 As soon as the photograph is taken out of the video, the aspects described above appear in a much more comic light, with all of the floral patterns rather stimulating the aesthetic isolation of the protagonist and turning the interior that is depicted into the den of a crazy dandy and eccentric narcissist whose decoration got out of control. Moreover, the space, the background, and the very position of Pěchouček in his “self-portrait” open up a whole range of more or less implicit visual intertexts. Following up a concept intro48 For example, in 2008 it was published on the cover of Labyrint revue magazine’s special issue on selfportraiture. See Labyrint revue, no. 21–22 (2007).
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115 Jan Šerých, The Shining: Kubrick's Carpet, 2005, wall painting, 350 x 700 cm, 5th Biennial of Young Art, House at the Stone Bell, City Gallery, Prague; courtesy of Jan Šerých.
duced by Gilles Deleuze, Mieke Bal writes about the “language of the baroque fold” which dissolves the boundary between the body and drapery by its endless frilling, following the development of this intermedial and timeless principle from Bernini’s sculpture The Ecstasy of St. Theresa (1652) to the biomorphic sculptures of Louise Bourgeois from the late 1960s.49 Revealing the body disappearing in an ornamental metamorphosis of the flowered housecoat, the garish blanket, and the leafy wallpaper patterns, Pěchouček’s photograph can also be perceived as a self-mocking paraphrase of the phrase “le pli [the fold] all-over,” used by Deleuze to define the excessive neo-baroque tendency of modern art to cover the entire surface of the painted canvas with folds.50 A certain awkwardness of the floral composition, playfully combining aggressive colours and faded hues, is also due to the no less ironic continuation of the aesthetics of symbolism and art nouveau. I also suggest that Pěchouček enters a creative dialogue with another twentieth-century painter who splendidly combines erotic gestures and the intimacy of wallpapers, namely Balthus, and especially his La chambre turque (The Turkish Room, 1963–1966) or La phalène (The Moth, 1960). A rather more distant pretext of the merging of the body and the decorative background can be seen in the canvases by Édouard Vuillard where – although in a more intimate and contemplative atmosphere – the volume of the individual figures is literally absorbed by the wallpaper or the fabric on the richly decorated sofa, as seen in La lectrice (The Reader, 1896). In Vuillard’s La coiffeuse (The Dressing Table, 1895), the face of one of the figures is blurred by the bouquet and the richly coloured wall, from which shimmers of light and autumn leaves seem to fall down onto the ginger hair and dress of the girl turning her back on the viewer. It is obvious that, because of their reframing, ornaments can step out of their Rococo context. The break of the frame enables Pěchouček’s wallpaper portrait to represent and
49 See Mieke Bal, “Ecstatic Aesthetics: Metaphoring Bernini,” in Compelling Visuality: The Work of Art in and out of History, ed. Claire Farago and Robert Zwijnenberg (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), 1–30. 50 Gilles Deleuze, Le pli: Leibniz et le baroque (Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 1988), 166. In 1993 it was published in English as The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque.
even transform its recent past (the socialist era), as well as to use the history of art in a creative manner. Perhaps the most radical manifestation of the ornamental pattern surviving on various surfaces is a 2005 large-format wall painting by Jan Šerých entitled Kubrick’s Carpet. The painting is a computerised graphic rendering of the carpet design covering the second floor of the Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining (1980). What is crucial is that the two-dimensionality of the wall surface is disturbed by using a dispositif of cinema: the size of the wall corresponds to the screen and the image is set in motion by the camera effect of tracking. Therefore, the manipulated perspective evokes, as the artist himself puts it, a sort of a “levitating point of view.”51 According to a theorist of contemporary Czech art, Karel Císař, the lines of the carpet design correspond to the labyrinth where the main protagonist of The Shining, the writer-turned-killer Jack Torrance, chases his son in the snow. We might say that the labyrinth, and the twists of the carpet design, symbolise Jack’s growing confusion and his slide into insanity and offer a descent into Jack’s pathological mind.52 However, a certain pathology, as well as a continuation of the Rococo subversion of these patterns, is obvious even without the film context of the painting. The carpet design, which becomes a wallpaper pattern upon achieving a vertical position, distinctively confuses the eye and demands a perspective that is radically different from the experience of human vision,53 for in this case, the eye, used to distinguishing a figure from its background, is watching nothing but moving geometric forms. If the background is lost, our eye cannot rest for a single moment, and the act of looking and focusing becomes physically impossible. That is the very core of its creative, but in fact frightening, perversion; the human being has been replaced by a strange, inhuman perspective. Besides a strong claustrophobic feeling, intensified by the wall that is placed in a gallery, the outlined forms, too, have a confusing impact. While Šerých’s painting forces us to constantly change perspective, we might occasionally discern the indication of a key (even though there is nothing to be opened), the surface of an electronic chip, a geometrically deformed design of tiger fur, or the cryptic patterns of tropical butterflies. In nature such patterns serve to camouflage the animals’ presence, but Šerých’s wallpaper hides nothing. The subversive power of its geometrical patterns, evoking, rather ironi51 Karel Císař, Věci, o kterých s nikým nemluvím: Současné české umění; 5. Bienále mladého umění Zvon 2005; 6. Bienále mladého umění Zvon 2008 [The things about which I don’t speak with anyone: Contemporary Czech art; 5th Biennial of Young Art, Bell 2005; 6th Biennial of Young Art, Bell 2008] (Praha: Agite/Fra, 2010), x. 52 Císař, Věci, o kterých s nikým nemluvím, 38. 53 Discussing Šerých’s work, Tomáš Pospiszyl has aptly written that Šerých “eliminates from his work any carnality or references to subjectivity.” Tomáš Pospiszyl, “The Treachery of Words,” in Jan Šerých se narodil 24. 6. 2083 minus jedna; Jan Šerých Was Born on 24. 6. 2083 Minus One, ed. Karel Císař (Praha: Tranzit, 2008), 49. Bilingual edition. According to Václav Magid, “the way the artist’s own position is present in this work consists of his absence, as the position is not that of presence but that of perspective.” The burying of the author, which occurs in many of Šerých’s works, does not allude to a Barthesian birth of the viewer but rather to his vanishing, as “the perspective he brings, along with the position he manifests, is not human.” Václav Magid, “A May morning and the struggle with an enemy, against which victory is defeat,” in Jan Šerých se narodil 24. 6. 2083 minus jedna, 113.
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cally, the shape of once-alive neurons, lies in their disclosure of the end of one extreme path of the ornaments across media and history, that is, the vanishing of all acting and perceiving subjects.
Towards the Act of Transfigurality The imprint of a subject in the wallpaper pattern has revealed a fusion of two worlds: bodily and ornamental space. For this reason, I claim that wallpaper covered by these patterns, fully emancipated from the mimetic representation of the real world, represents a continuation and use of the aesthetically creative yet subversive event which took place during the historical Rococo period. I explained this event through the exuberant movement of the ornamental lines of rocaille, the extensions of which I discovered in another era and in different art forms. To put it differently, the wallpaper represents a phantasmic screen which displays a Rococo ornamental pattern, a pattern that survives in the animated contours of the wallpaper. As a result of the broken Rococo frame, the ornamental curves have left their original environment, invading a pictorial space, and finally growing out of it to shape all that happens to be caught in their folds. It is obvious that terms such as intertextuality, transtextuality, or intersemioticity do not suffice to capture these remarkable relations, which are to some extent anachronistic and inappropriate, yet tangible. The term intertextuality seems insufficient, since what is in question here is not merely a transfer between texts and “textures,” that is, discursive formations, but also a transfer of elements of a material nature that it is hard to define verbally. The term intersemioticity is hardly apt, either, as the outlined figures include not only sign systems but also images, affects, and symptoms.54 To cover this overlapping of images, texts, and terms, as well as the affective impulses and material, cognitive, and sensory patterns of historical and aesthetic experience – an overlapping I have illustrated through the continuity of Rococo ornament and wallpaper in several artworks of the 20th and 21st centuries – let me propose an as yet unestablished term, “transfigurality.” This term could denote the act of transfer and mediation of textual, visual, and other sensory (primarily tactile and acoustic) and aesthetic patterns from one artwork to another, across time, space, cultures, and various media. This transfer can be provoked by the intentional creative strategy of production, as well as by a concrete perspective 54 I use the term “symptom” in the context of the works by the visual anthropologist Georges Didi-Huberman, who conceives of it across his work as a versatile theoretical model, a critical category enabling the reflection of primarily that (not only) aesthetic experience which moves on the very edge of representation, representability, and rational rendering. See Georges Didi-Huberman, La ressemblance informe ou le Gai Savoir visuel selon Georges Bataille [The formless resemblance, or the merry visual science according to Georges Bataille] (Paris: Macula, 1995), 334–62. Didi-Huberman’s definition of the symptom alludes to Sigmund Freud’s Die Traumdeutung (1899, in English as The Interpretation of Dreams), defining it as a certain creative violence committed on the iconography and classic imitation of the body, or disfiguration: “It must be repeated once more how much the symptom . . . answers fully here to the paradox stated by Freud about figurality in general: namely that figuring consists not in producing or inventing figures, but in modifying figures, and thus in carrying out the insistent work of a disfiguration in the visible.” Georges Didi-Huberman, Confronting Images: Questioning the Ends of a Certain History of Art (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2005), 209.
of interpretation, which would represent an element that is as active and constitutive for the realisation of the transfigural process as the original creative act.55 Besides developing the latent reflexive and aesthetic relations within the artworks themselves, its epistemological force also lies in the fact that it animates the participating figures from the perspective of the present moment and in a non-chronological and performative way, thus restoring their deserved urgency.
Bibliography Ankersmit, Frank R. “Rococo as the Dissipation of Boredom.” In Compelling Visuality: The Work of Art in and out of History, edited by Claire Farago and Robert Zwijnenberg. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003. 132–55. Ankersmit, Frank. Sublime Historical Experience. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005. Aumont, Jacques. À quoi pensent les films. Paris: Séguier, 1996. Bacci, Francesca, and David Melcher. Art and the Senses. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Bal, Mieke. “Ecstatic Aesthetics: Metaphoring Bernini.” In Compelling Visuality: The Work of Art in and out of History, edited by Claire Farago and Robert Zwijnenberg. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003. 1–30. Bely, Andrei. Petersburg: A Novel in Eight Chapters with a Prologue and an Epilogue. Translated by David McDuff. London: Penguin, 1995. Bergman, Ingmar, dir. Through a Glass Darkly. 1961. Svensk Filmindustri; Criterion Collection, 2003. DVD. Boyd, Brian. Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991. Císař, Karel. Věci, o kterých s nikým nemluvím: Současné české umění; 5. Bienále mladého umění Zvon 2005; 6. Bienále mladého umění Zvon 2008. Praha: Agite/Fra, 2010. Deleuze, Gilles. Le pli: Leibniz et le baroque. Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 1988. Derrida, Jacques. The Truth in Painting. Translated by Geoff Bennington and Ian McLeod. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987. Didi-Huberman, Georges. Confronting Images: Questioning the Ends of a Certain History of Art. Philadelphia: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2005. Didi-Huberman, Georges. La ressemblance informe ou le Gai Savoir visuel selon Georges Bataille. Paris: Macula, 1995. Focillon, Henri. Life of Forms in Art. Translated by Charles B. Hogan and George Kubler. 1942. New York: Zone Books, 1996. Gado, Frank. The Passion of Ingmar Bergman. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1986. Gervais, Bertrand, and Audrey Lemieux. “À la rencontre du lisible et du visible.” In Perspectives croisées sur la figure: À la rencontre du lisible et du visible, edited by Bertrand Gervais and Audrey Lemieux. Montréal: Presses de l’Université du Québec, 2012. 1–14. Grabar, Oleg. The Mediation of Ornament. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992.
55 Another term that suggests itself is “interfigurality.” However, this has already entered the terminology of literary studies, in the early 1990s, thanks to Wolfgang Müller, and is used in the sense of the presence of literary figures across literary texts. See Wolfgang Müller, “Interfigurality: A Study of the Interdependence of Literary Figures,” in Intertextuality, ed. Heinrich F. Plett (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1991), 101–21.
Lost in Pattern Harries, Karsten. The Bavarian Rococo Church: Between Faith and Aestheticism. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1983. Harries, Karsten. The Broken Frame: Three Lectures. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1989. Haycock, Daniel E. Being and Perceiving. London: Manupod Press, 2011. Jirsa, Tomáš. Fyziognomie psaní: V záhybech literárního ornamentu. Praha: Filozofická fakulta Univerzity Karlovy, 2012. Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Judgment. Translated by Werner S. Pluhar. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1987. Kant, Immanuel. Dreams of a Spirit-Seer, Illustrated by Dreams of Metaphysics. Translated by Emanuel Goerwitz. Edited by Frank Sewall. London: Swan Sonnenschein, 1900. Laplanche, Jean, and Jean-Bertrand Pontalis. Vocabulaire de la psychanalyse. 5th ed. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2007. Leonardo da Vinci. A Treatise on Painting. Translated by John Francis Rigaud. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2005. Lyotard, Jean-François. Discourse, Figure. Translated by Mary Lydon and Antony Hudek. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011. Magid, Václav. “A May morning and the struggle with an enemy, against which victory is defeat.” In Jan Šerých se narodil 24. 6. 2083 minus jedna; Jan Šerých Was Born on 24. 6. 2083 Minus One, edited by Karel Císař. Praha: Tranzit, 2008. 99–113. Mazanec, Martin. “Michal Pěchouček.” Labyrint revue, no. 21–22 (2007): 86–88. Melcher, David, and Patrick Cavanagh. “Pictorial Cues in Art and in Visual Perception.” In Art and the Senses, edited by Francesca Bacci and David Melcher. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. 359–94. Miller, J. Hillis. “Figure.” In Perspectives croisées sur la figure: À la rencontre du lisible et du visible, edited by Bertrand Gervais and Audrey Lemieux. Montréal: Presses de l’Université du Québec, 2012. 53–57. Mitchell, J. W. T. Picture Theory: Essays on Verbal and Visual Representation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994. Morris, Paul D. Vladimir Nabokov: Poetry and the Lyric Voice. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011. Müller, Wolfgang. “Interfigurality: A Study of the Interdependence of Literary Figures.” In Intertextuality, edited by Henrich F. Plett. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1991. 101–21. Nabokov, Vladimir. Pnin. 1957. New York: Vintage International, 1989. Navratil, Leo. Schizophrénie et art. Bruxelles: Presses Universitaires de France, 1978. Pirandello, Luigi. Six Characters in Search of an Author. Translated by Edward Storer. 1922. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1998. Pospiszyl, Tomáš. “The Treachery of Words.” In Jan Šerých se narodil 24. 6. 2083 minus jedna; Jan Šerých Was Born on 24. 6. 2083 Minus One, edited by Karel Císař. Praha: Tranzit, 2008, 45–51. Schulz, Bruno. Sanatorium under the Sign of the Hourglass. Translated by Celine Wieniewska. New York: Penguin, 1979. Schulz, Bruno. The Street of Crocodiles. Translated by Celine Wieniewska. London: Penguin, 1977. Souriau, Étienne. Vocabulaire d’esthétique. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2004. Thibaut-Pomerantz, Carolle. Wallpaper: A History of Style and Trends. Translated by Deke Dusinberre and Carolle Thibaut-Pomerantz. Paris: Flammarion, 2009. Törnqvist, Egil. Between Stage and Screen: Ingmar Bergman Directs. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 1995. Weinar, Adam. By Authors Possessed: The Demoniac Novel in Russia. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1998.
9 Where Is Oral History Today? Individual Memory and the Stories about the Nazi Period* radmila švaříčková slabáková Oral history is known as an effective tool for approaching subjective individual experience. Although often understood, erroneously, as a mere method of interviewing, it has spread across various fields and disciplines in the social sciences and humanities such as journalism, sociology and biographical studies. However, the field of oral history itself has been transformed dramatically since its birth in the 1960s. The interaction of oral history with a “memory wave” in the 1980s led many oral historians to rethink the concept of individual memory, and to consider the latter as subsumed under collective memory. As a consequence, contemporary interpretive approaches to oral history minimise the role of individual remembering, which is in contradiction with the assumptions of oral history at its birth. The first part of this chapter briefly discusses four paradigmatic transformations of oral history, considering as important transformations epistemological rather than technical ones. The situation of oral history in the Czech Republic is also characterised. The second part describes one of the least settled areas of oral history and memory studies: the relationship between individual and collective memory. In the third part of the chapter, I argue, with examples from oral history interviews on the subject of World War II and Nazism, that an individual’s memories tend to conform to dominant cultural patterns, and are composed in ways which are publicly acceptable. At the outset there was what Alistair Thomson calls “the postwar renaissance of memory as a source for ‘people’s history,’” which gave a voice to those ignored by traditional historical sources, to the people considered “hidden from history” – workers, women, indigenous people, and people with disabilities.1 It was not so much the invention of the portable tape-recorder and microphone, but rather the radical political and social atmosphere of the 1960s and 1970s that gave birth to the movement. Many of the founders of oral history, such as Paul Thompson, the author of the canonic The Voice of the Past (1978), Ronald Grele, the doyen of oral history in the U.S., and Alexander von Plato, a German historian, talk about Marxism as their source of inspiration, about the attractiveness of Communist ideas for them, and about their being socialists at that time. A leftist political orientation was demonstrated by their aim to bring ordinary people into history, to “give the people a voice in history.”2 The first oral history works described * This chapter is a result of the research financed by the Czech Science Foundation as the project GA ČR 15-02993S “Family memory and intergenerational transmission of identities” awarded to the author. 1 Alistair Thomson, “Dancing through the Memory of Our Movement: Four Paradigmatic Revolutions in Oral History,” paper presented at the 14th International Oral History Conference, Sydney, 2006. For an extended version see Alistair Thomson, “Four Paradigm Transformations in Oral History,” Oral History Review 34, no. 1 (2007): 49–70. 2 “Alexander von Plato,” in Around the Globe: Rethinking Oral History with Its Protagonists, by Miroslav Vaněk (Praha: Karolinum, 2013), 115. See also Vaněk’s interviews with Paul Thompson and Ronald Grele in the same book.
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the lives of workers; in Britain, for example, the birth of oral history was linked with a radical socialist feminist movement. According to Thomson, in the late 1970s the first “paradigmatic revolution” in the oral history movement took place.3 For Ronald Grele, the possibility of arguing against a “kind of naïve positivistic empiricism,” the predominant trend in American sociology at that time, was one of the reasons for becoming interested in oral history.4 As early as in 1978, on the occasion of the first international conference in Essex, the seeds of a second, postmodernist phase of oral history were present: “Memory, myth, consciousness and ideology as well as subjectivity and reflexivity were now on the agenda.”5 This second, post-positivist phase of the movement, in the words of the American oral historian Michael Frisch, turned the shortcomings of oral history into its strength.6 Often blamed for their unreliability, interviews ceased to function as a mere source of data. Memory itself became a subject of inquiry; oral historians wanted to move beyond what people remember and beyond the content of the interviews, to why people remember. Oral history turned out to be a powerful tool for discovering more about the process of memory. This period could also be defined by the founding of the Oral History Association (in 1966) and by an increasing concern with interdisciplinarity. Interdisciplinarity would remain a defining characteristic of the third paradigmatic revolution, from the 1980s. A close relationship of oral historians to other disciplines such as qualitative sociology, anthropology, biographical and literary studies, linguistics, and psychology enabled them to explore the relationship between memory, narrative, and personal identity. One of the most significant features of the 1980s and the 1990s was a renewed interest in studies of memory.7 The term “collective memory,” coined by the French sociologist Maurice Halbwachs in his book Les cadres sociaux de la mémoire in 1925,8 appeared in numerous studies on collective memories and collective identities in the 1980s. Most advanced societies have become increasingly concerned with public history and demonstrated their continuing interest in remembrance activities. Former perceptions of the past, confronted with the collapse of the Communist regimes, changed, and new discourses on memory were backed up by a constructivist turn in the humanities. One of the premises at the time was that the past is always reconstructed according to the needs of the present as, in Aleida Assmann’s words, “the present is in 3 Thomson, Dancing. He identifies four “paradigmatic revolutions” in oral history. 4 “Ronald Grele,” in Around the Globe, by Miroslav Vaněk, 74. 5 Ronald Grele, “Commentary,” Oral History Review 34, no. 2 (2007): 122. Here Grele comments on Alistair Thomson’s essay “Four Paradigm Transformations in Oral History.” 6 See Michael Frisch, “Quality in History Programs: From Celebration to Exploration of Values,” in A Shared Authority: Essays on the Craft and Meaning of Oral and Public History (New York: State University of New York Press, 1990), 188. 7 The monumental work of French academics under the direction of Pierre Nora reintroduced the term “collective memory” and facilitated the research on the topic. See Pierre Nora, ed., Les lieux de mémoire, 3 vol. (Paris: Gallimard, 1984–1992). 8 See Maurice Halbwachs, Les cadres sociaux de la mémoire (Paris: Librairie Félix Alcan, 1925); for the English translation see On Collective Memory, trans. Lewis A. Coser (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 37–191. The volume also contains the conclusions of his La topographie légendaire des Évangiles en Terre Sainte: Étude de mémoire collective (The Legendary Topography of the Gospels in the Holy Land, 1941).
Where Is Oral History Today?
no way stable” and “reconstructing the past is a varying and open-ended project.”9 The resulting “memory boom” in the humanities and social sciences has continued until the present. If there is a fourth phase in the oral history field, it should not be defined by mere technological advances. As Thomson points out, oral historians have certainly moved into the period of digitalisation, with “audio-visual digital recordings, easily accessible in their entirety via the internet,” and are looking forward to unimaginably “sophisticated digital indexing and cataloguing tools.”10 The next transformation of oral history, however, is still in the future; as suggested by Grele, the next paradigmatic shift in oral history should be concerned with problems of globalization and with the issues of a post-colonial world. As far as the Czech Republic is concerned, oral history is still in its infancy. In spite of the existence of field work with interviewees under the Communist regime, mainly in history and ethnography, approaches to oral sources have not moved beyond the first, positivist phase of the movement. The interest of interviewers has focused on the data and information that could be gleaned from peoples’ memories and the information gathered has been used to illustrate historical data collected from the archives. No exami nation of the interaction between official “state” memory on the one hand, and public memory on the other, not to speak of the process of remembering, has not been on the agenda. With the collapse of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia in 1989, new directions in historical studies emerged. The introduction of oral history, however, was checked by an obvious mistrust of both unreliable oral sources and memory – only written sources were supposed to be credible.11 Nowadays, its value is accepted as self-evident,12 with considerable institutional resources being mobilised. In 2000, an Oral History Centre was established as a section of the Institute for Contemporary History at the Academy of Sciences in Prague; in 2007, the Czech Oral History Association was founded and in 2008 a Masters programme in Oral and Contemporary History was introduced at the Faculty of Humanities of Charles University in Prague. A Centre for Oral History was also created at the Faculty of Education of the University of West Bohemia in Plzeň (Pilsen) in 2009, issuing its own oral history journal entitled Memo. In spite of the radical transformation of oral history in the last few decades, its main feature at the moment is extreme diversity. Oral history done by local community historians is very different from university-sponsored oral history research. At the grassroots level, oral history is still used somewhat naïvely, with the aim of collecting an appropriate kind of information, even though this is subjective. Additionally, in the Czech Republic 9 Aleida Assmann, “Response to Peter Novick,” GHI Bulletin 40 (2007): 34. 10 Thomson, Dancing. 11 The difficulties of getting oral history accepted by Czech historians are discussed at length and in great detail, some of it pointless, in various works of the members of the Oral History Centre in Prague. See, for example, Miroslav Vaněk and Pavel Mücke, Třetí strana trojúhelníku: Teorie a praxe orální historie [The third side of a triangle: Theory and practice of oral history] (Praha: Fakulta humanitních studií Univerzity Karlovy; Ústav pro soudobé dějiny Akademie věd ČR, 2011). 12 Vaněk, Around the Globe, 10.
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many historians use peoples’ memories as near-contemporary eyewitness accounts, as distinctive primary sources that can be mined for information about the past which is unavailable in archives.13 The focus is still on describing events and not on the construction of remembering itself.14 One of the important issues in memory studies today, the significance of memory itself, is rarely addressed in Czech oral history. In his recent brief description of the condition of Czech oral history, Pavel Mücke, the president of the Czech Oral History Association, concentrated on the “old” problems of oral history, stressing the specific nature of oral history sources, the importance of the techniques, the ethics, and the success of Czech oral history in the international oral history movement.15 After this overview of the condition of oral history at present, I turn to the relationship between individual and collective memory, which remains one of the unsettled areas of memory studies and an issue of considerable importance for oral historians. In recent decades, many historians have conceptualised memory as essentially collective. However, as we have seen, the term “collective memory” was actually introduced in the 1920s and 1930s. According to Halbwachs, individuals remember through dialogue with others in social groups, in a constant interaction with “social frameworks.” The memories of the individual are merged, and submerged, within groups, so that “the framework of collective memory confines and binds our most intimate remembrances to each other.”16 Despite his rather vague definition, Halbwachs’s theory of memory still shapes contemporary memory studies. Collective memory is conflated with individual memory, or places the latter beyond reach, in the realm of psychology. The role of individual memory is minimised or even denied. Wulf Kansteiner comments on this: “The very language and narrative patterns that we use to express memories, even autobiographical memories, are inseparable from the social standards of plausibility and authenticity that they embody.”17 In this sense, as Michael Schudson notes, “there is no such thing as individual memory.”18 In the field of oral history, as Anna Green recently argued, the focus has also moved away from the individual and towards the wider social and cultural context within which 13 See, for example, Mary Fulbrook, “History-Writing and ‘Collective Memory,’” in Writing the History of Memory, ed. Stefan Berger and Bill Niven (London: Bloomsbury, 2014), 75. While Fulbrook realizes the importance of eyewitness accounts, she also shows that any personal memories are always tinted by “ever changing frameworks of social discourses.” 14 Consider, for example, a recent book by Miroslav Vaněk, the founder of the Oral History Centre in Prague, Byl to jenom rock’n’roll? Hudební alternativa v komunistickém Československu 1956–1989 [Was it only rock’n’roll? The musical alternative in Communist Czechoslovakia, 1956–1989] (Praha: Academia, 2010). 15 Pavel Mücke, “Deset krátkých zastavení nad možnostmi a mezerami (české) orální historie” [Ten brief stops over the possibilities and gaps of the (Czech) oral history], Dějiny – teorie – kritika 10, no. 2 (2013): 296–301. 16 Halbwachs, On Collective Memory, 53. For discussion on Halbwachs see Assmann, Response, 33. 17 Wulf Kansteiner, “Finding Meaning in Memory: A Methodological Critique of Collective Memory Studies,” History and Theory 41 (2002): 185. Also quoted in Anna Green, “Individual Remembering and ‘Collective Memory’: Theoretical Presuppositions and Contemporary Debates,” Oral History, no. 2 (2004): 37. 18 Michael Schudson, “Dynamics of Distortion in Collective Memory,” in Memory Distortion: How Minds, Brains, and Societies Reconstruct the Past, ed. Daniel Schachter (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995), 346.
Where Is Oral History Today?
remembering takes place. She asserts that no matter how threatening this shift seems to be for the very concerns and values that led to the development of the oral history movement in the 1960s, individual remembering is significant and the conscious self possesses the capacity to contest and critique cultural scripts or discourses.19 In the next section, based on oral narratives about the Nazi period that I have collected, I will argue, however, for the first trend in oral history: that the individual’s memories conform to dominant cultural patterns and are composed in ways which are publicly acceptable at the moment. I conducted a series of interviews with members of the former Czechoslovak nobility (the nobility was abolished shortly after the foundation of the Czechoslovak Republic in 1918) focusing on their life experiences. The main focus of the interviews was on childhood and youthful recollections, or on the exile of the nobles rather than on recollections of World War II and Nazism. Nevertheless, all the interviewees considered it important to talk about their experiences of the war period. The majority of these eighteen nobles were born in the 1920s and 1930s, and several of them lived in Austria at the time of the interviews. It is necessary to note that the question of the nationality of the nobles in Czechoslovakia is a rather complicated issue, and one that remains unsettled to the present. In the 1930s many Czechoslovak nobles turned to Nazi Germany, and in 1938 they welcomed the German annexation of the Sudetenland.20 After the war, the majority of Bohemia’s nobles were expelled as part of the post-war expulsion of the Sudeten Germans.21 The Communist seizure of power in 1948 resulted in a final liquidation of the nobles’ property and caused the exile of many of them. It was only after the momentous year of 1989 and the subsequent restitution laws of the 1990s that many of the exiled nobility returned to Czechoslovakia where they were able to reclaim their property (even though much of it had been destroyed). One of the interviewees, a man called Charles, remembered: And then. . . we had to go to Brno. There was some German school. Something terrible, German. And, there, we had to take exams. . . I remember, my sister returned. . . there was. . . all the girls were together. And the director of the school opened the door. All the girls stood there and when the director came in, they stood up and shouted: “Heil Hitler!” My sister was
19 Green, “Individual Remembering and ‘Collective Memory,’” 42. 20 The first to depict the difficult position of the former elite in the new Czechoslovak republic was Eagle Glassheim, an American historian. See Eagle Glassheim, Noble Nationalists: The Transformation of the Bohemian Aristocracy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005). 21 The expulsion and the confiscation of the properties was executed on the basis of the Beneš decrees, the series of laws which expelled the enemies of the Czech and Slovak nation (Germans and Hungarians), those who had committed an offence against the Czech and Slovak nation, unless they had either actively participated in the liberation of Czechoslovakia or were subjected to Nazi or fascist terror. Paragraph 1, article 1.2 stipulated the loss of citizenship and confiscation of the property of those who applied for German or Hungarian citizenship during the occupation and specified German or Hungarian ethnicity in the 1929 census.
radmila švaříčková slabáková away and didn’t know what had happened, you know? [laughter] And when she returned, she was completely pale and said: “Do you know what they did?”22
Charles is a member of the nobility whose properties were returned to their owner in the 1990s. He is a Czech and his national orientation was emphasised in conversation by his attitude during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia during World War II. At the time, he says, he was unhappy to go to a German school (he would certainly have preferred a Czech one even though he could not express his preference regarding the choice of school) and in his family the attitude was definitively anti-Nazi – his sister did not even know what “Heil Hitler” meant since this was something unknown for her. These recollections correspond with the facts which are known about Charles and his family from other sources. His family declared its affiliation and fidelity to the Czech nation under Nazi occupation in September 1939, in a period when many nobles of Czech nationality were forced to become Germans by the Nazi occupiers. The interviewee’s father finally opted for German nationality in 1940, but after the end of World War II, he received a certificate of national reliability and at the beginning of the 1990s, his family acquired their property back. Another interviewee, Heinrich, has a similar recollection: “In 1938, 1939, . . . we had to take our exams. . . and there, everyone shouted ‘Heil Hitler!’ and we just stood and didn’t know what it was.”23 Heinrich obviously wanted to explain to the interviewer, a Czech by nationality, the reasons why he and his brothers were in a German school. However, their presence in a “wrong” school does not mean any attachment to the German occupiers. Neither he nor his family can be linked with the Germans; in the family, he explains, they talked Czech during the Nazi occupation: “On March 15 [the date of the occupation by the Germans] we started to speak only Czech at home, automatically.” Remembering the German high school was in fact an error; they never attended it, but only prepared for exams at home and the next year they started to attend the “right” high school, a Czech one. The interviewee’s father never opted for German nationality and the family got their properties back in the 1990s. Other recollections about the narrators’ schools at the time are strikingly similar to these. The period spent in German schools during World War II is considered the worst time of the narrators’ lives. However, with the aim of not being associated with the regime, some interviewees stressed their work against the occupants and depicted their bad grades as a kind of a passive resistance. For example, Victor said: I had to go to. . . to some “Oberschule” to Prague, it was the most terrible period of my life. . . we did go to such schools, yeah, but our grades were. . . my grades in 1943 and 1944, I cannot tell you, I did not learn, did not learn, it was a kind of a passive resistance.24
22 Charles, interviewed by the author on November 17, 2011, in the Czech Republic. For anonymity, I do not disclose the places where interviews were recorded. All interviews were conducted in Czech and translated into English by the author. 23 Heinrich, interviewed by the author on September 9, 2005, in the Czech Republic. 24 Victor, interviewed by the author on August 27, 2003, in the Czech Republic.
Where Is Oral History Today?
Thomas used similar words: “My German was better than the teacher’s, but I always managed to have a worse grade.”25 What is striking here is the fact that analogous proofs of an anti-Nazi position can be found in all the interviews, irrespective of the nationalities of the interviewees during World War II, irrespective of whether they were expelled as Germans, or not, and whether or not they claimed and received their properties back during the restitution process. Even the subjects whose “Czechness” was not contested, and it is described in numerous books26 and manifested by their return to previously confiscated properties, point out their anti-German (meaning anti-Nazi) attitude. A female interviewee, whose father was a leading member of the Sudeten German nobility and was a member of the Völkerbundliga, a member of the Sudetendeutsche Partei and, from 1939, a member of the Nazi Nazionalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP), described the anti-Nazi behaviour of her family several times in her interview: “My mother, she was so against it. . . she was a hundred percent anti-Nazi.”27 Her father was referred to as an “Österreicher,” and the woman went on offering other examples to confirm her family’s correct position during World War II. My aim here is not to discredit once again the validity of oral sources, or to say that the interviewees deliberately modified their accounts according to their needs – several are still involved in lawsuits claiming the anti-Nazi position of their family during World War II and, therefore, the return of their rather large properties which were confiscated by the state under the Beneš decrees. The purpose of these extracts is to turn attention to the process of recollection itself. One of the important moments in the oral history field was the recognition of the “theory of composure.” Graham Dawson, who coined the term, argued: The social recognition offered within any specific public will be intimately related to the cultural values that it holds in common, and exercises a determining influence upon the way a narrative may be told and, therefore, upon the kind of composure that it makes possible.28
One of the dimensions of this composure, apart from a possible political one, is its psychological implications. There is a need to construct a safe personal coherence out of the unresolved, risky and painful pieces of past and present lives. It is the need to compose a past we can live with and that is publicly acceptable, that gives us a sense of coherent 25 Thomas, interviewed by the author on November 15, 2008, in the Czech Republic. 26 For example, popular works on the Czech nobility by Vladimír Votýpka written in journalistic style. One of his book was even translated into German; see Vladimír Votýpka, Böhmischer Adel: Familiengeschichten [Bohemian nobility: Family stories] (Wien: Böhlau, 2008). See also Radmila Švaříčková Slabáková, Mýtus šlechty u nás a v nás: Paměť a šlechta dvacátého století [The nobility myth in our country and in us: Memory and the twentieth-century nobility] (Praha: Lidové noviny, 2013), depicting myths connected with the nobility in Bohemia and Moravia. 27 Cecilia, interviewed by the author on May 22, 2011, in Austria. 28 Graham Dawson, Soldier Heroes: British Adventure, Empire and the Imagining of Masculinities (London: Psychology Press, 1994), 23. Also quoted in Lynn Abrams, “Memory as Both Source and Subject of Study: The Transformations of Oral History,” in Writing the History of Memory, ed. Stefan Berger and Bill Niven (London: Bloomsbury, 2014), 99.
radmila švaříčková slabáková
identity. Only when we are unable to align personal memories with publicly acceptable versions of the past does discomposure arise. The nobles I interviewed certainly composed their stories in a way they were able to feel comfortable with. The need to compose a publicly acceptable story forced them, however, to focus their talks on Czech-German relations. It was the Czech nationality of the interviewer that oriented them to compose stories in which they could be perceived as distant from the hostile Germans, or even in a position of resistance to Nazi Germany. Some other ways in which interviewees composed memory stories that are publicly acceptable could be cited. The strategies of composure may vary, but in the case of talking about the Nazi period, the dominant Czech historical discourse about the events of World War II was the most important feature which oriented the process of remembering for all the noble interviewees.
Bibliography Abrams, Lynn. “Memory as Both Source and Subject of Study: The Transformations of Oral History.” In Writing the History of Memory, edited by Stefan Berger and Bill Niven. London: Bloomsbury, 2014. 89–109. Assmann, Aleida. “Response to Peter Novick.” GHI Bulletin 40 (2007): 33–38. Dawson, Graham. Soldier Heroes: British Adventure, Empire and the Imagining of Masculinities. London: Psychology Press, 1994. Frisch, Michael. “Quality in History Programs: From Celebration to Exploration of Values.” In A Shared Authority: Essays on the Craft and Meaning of Oral and Public History. New York: State University of New York Press, 1990. 183–90. Fulbrook, Mary. “History-Writing and ‘Collective Memory.’” In Writing the History of Memory, edited by Stefan Berger and Bill Niven. London: Bloomsbury, 2014. 65–88. Glassheim, Eagle. Noble Nationalists: The Transformation of the Bohemian Aristocracy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005. Green, Anna. “Individual Remembering and ‘Collective Memory’: Theoretical Presuppositions and Contemporary Debates.” Oral History 32, no. 2 (2004): 35–44. Grele, Ronald. “Commentary.” Oral History Review 34, no. 2 (2007): 121–23. Halbwachs, Maurice. Les cadres sociaux de la mémoire. Paris: Librairie Félix Alcan, 1925. Halbwachs, Maurice. On Collective Memory. Translated by Lewis A. Coser. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992. Kansteiner, Wulf. “Finding Meaning in Memory: A Methodological Critique of Collective Memory Studies.” History and Theory 41, no. 2 (2002): 179–97. Mücke, Pavel. “Deset krátkých zastavení nad možnostmi a mezerami (české) orální historie.” Dějiny – teorie – kritika 10, no. 2 (2013): 296–301. Nora, Pierre, ed. Les lieux de mémoire. 3 vols. Paris: Gallimard, 1984–1992. Schudson, Michael. “Dynamics of Distortion in Collective Memory.” In Memory Distortion: How Minds, Brains, and Societies Reconstruct the Past, edited by Daniel Schachter. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995. 346–63. Švaříčková Slabáková, Radmila. Mýtus šlechty u nás a v nás: Paměť a šlechta dvacátého století. Praha: Lidové noviny, 2013. Thomson, Alistair. “Dancing through the Memory of Our Movement: Four Paradigmatic Revolutions in Oral History.” Paper presented at the 14th International Oral History Conference, Sydney, 2006.
Where Is Oral History Today? Thomson, Alistair. “Four Paradigm Transformations in Oral History.” Oral History Review 34, no. 1 (2007): 49–70. Vaněk, Miroslav. “Alexander von Plato.” In Around the Globe: Rethinking Oral History with Its Protagonists. Praha: Karolinum, 2013. 113–21. Vaněk, Miroslav. Around the Globe: Rethinking Oral History with Its Protagonists. Praha: Karolinum, 2013. Vaněk, Miroslav. Byl to jenom rock’n’roll? Hudební alternativa v komunistickém Československu 1956–1989. Praha: Academia, 2010. Vaněk, Miroslav. “Ronald Grele.” In Around the Globe: Rethinking Oral History with Its Protagonists. Praha: Karolinum, 2013. 70–83. Vaněk, Miroslav, and Pavel Mücke. Třetí strana trojúhelníku: Teorie a praxe orální historie. Praha: Fakulta humanitních studií Univerzity Karlovy; Ústav pro soudobé dějiny Akademie věd ČR, 2011. Votýpka, Vladimír. Böhmischer Adel: Familiengeschichten. Wien: Böhlau, 2008.
10 An Audio Drama on Lidice in Caerus Time Andrea Hanáčková When we think of time and its relation to the medium of radio, we can exploit the difference between two concepts of time used by ancient Greeks, chronos and caerus. According to the concept of chronos, time is measured in countable units, as a timetable, a plan, involving seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, and years. If we apply this concept of time, the time of traditional radio is probably ticking away into an inevitable demise. However, seen from the view of caerus, which is time measured according to the value of meeting with another person, of propitious moments,1 radio has been reflecting history since its beginnings. The very first feature broadcast on the Czechoslovak radio station called Radiojournal, on October 23, 1928, commemorating the tenth anniversary of independent Czechoslovakia, was Václav Gutwirth’s reflection on major events in the history of the Czech nation, a twenty-minute collage of music, sound, and narration, Duch dějin (The spirit of history), describing such prominent milestones of Czech history as the Thirty Years’ War, the National Revival, and the founding of an independent Czechoslovak state. The original feature has been lost but it was reconstructed by Czech Radio in 1999 and broadcast in 2000.2 This chapter aims to answer several key questions associated with the representation of history, looking at the relationship between the radio documentary and history. Is there any “appropriate time” for a radio documentary? Are radio documentarists able to recognise such times and reach for the right topic? And, finally, does a radio documentary or audio drama on a historic theme have anything to say about the contemporary listener as well? It is my contention that these questions touch upon the dual concept of time as described by early Greek philosophers. Let me start with the chronos concept of time. From this point of view we can say that in 2015 it was twenty-six years since the Czech lands restored a democratic regime (in 1989). Twenty-six years ago Communism was defeated in Central Europe and the ambiguous journey towards democracy began. In order to understand this process, Czech radio producers had to cope with the past, which created a golden age for the radio documentary. Dozens of features were made, dealing with events about which those who grew up under the Communist regime had never learned at school. The chronos concept of time had a precious encounter with the caerus concept – the appropriate 1 See The Online Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek-English Lexicon, s.v. καιρος, in Thesaurus Linguae Graecae: A Digital Library of Greek Literature, gen. ed. Maria Pantelia (Irvine: University of California, 2014), http:// stephanus.tlg.uci.edu/lsj/#eid=53563&context=lsj&action=from-search. The lexicon defines it as “due measure, proportion, fitness,” but also as “exact or critical time, season, opportunity,” and “advantage, profit . . . of or from a thing” (italics in the original). The concept of caerus as “the opportune moment” is also used in the field of rhetoric. See, for example, John Poulakos, “Toward a Sophistic Definition of Rhetoric,” Philosophy and Rhetoric 16, no. 1 (1983): 35–48. 2 Václav Gutwirth, Duch dějin, produced by Zdeněk Bouček, dir. Jiří Hraše, Český rozhlas 3 – Vltava, January 7, 2000.
moment, the right moment to do a certain thing. Voices were being given to portraits of people whose names were prohibited during the Communist regime, to people who had been considered enemies, and those who searched keenly for true and uncensored information listened eagerly and prepared to reconstruct their own past and the past of their country. Caerus as “a critical time,” however, can also act as a parallel time that connects us with intuition, the instinct that something important has to be gathered and recorded before it dries out and perishes. Miloš Doležal, a Czech poet, radio journalist, and reporter, who joined the Czech Radio in 1998, had this feeling as well. He went out to speak to people who were almost unknown to the contemporary generation.3 Most of them were about seventy years old at the time and there was a danger that this part of the historical memory of Czechoslovakia would vanish without trace. Doležal set out to reconstruct this fragmented memory with great patience and diligence. He recorded hundreds of minutes of detailed recollections of combats, rescue missions, everyday military lives, and moments between life and death, along with many proofs of friendship, sacrifice, and heroism. He himself spoke to two hundred people and over fifteen years, from 1998 to 2013, captured their accounts in real or caerus time. Most of those who helped him to preserve their true history at the last moment are now dead. The radio documentary is closely connected with history. Producers of historical radio programmes often prefer methods that enable them to tell seemingly unimportant stories against the backdrop of great historical events, to personalise official history through the fates of individuals. In this way documentarists also include sociological and psychological perspectives: by making the narratives literally “from the neighbourhood,” they shed light on minute details which would fall into oblivion over the coming years.4 Everyone who works with a historical theme must tackle a great number of historical sources, for example diaries, letters, court files, government documents, dispatches, posters, or transcripts of speeches. Udo Zindel claims that if such documents are pre 3 They were former members of the resistance during World War II, soldiers, generals, partisans, or pilots, whom after 1948 the Communists made enemies of the regime and often imprisoned for many years. Among Doležal’s radio documentaries are Smrt generála Luži aneb partyzánská pomsta smrt za smrt [The death of General Luža, or A death-for-death revenge of the partisans, 2002], Atentát na Reinharda Heydricha [The assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, 2005], or Nebe plné dýmu [Heaven full of smoke, 2010]. All of them were created for Czech Radio 3 – Vltava (Czech art radio for classical music, literature, radio plays, and documentary programmes). Doležal is also the author of many books of interviews with these people and personally contributed to their social rehabilitation. See, for example, his Jako bychom dnes zemřít měli: Drama života, kněžství a mučednické smrti číhošťského faráře P. Josefa Toufara [As if we were to die today: The drama of the life, priesthood, and martyrdom of Josef Toufar, the priest from Číhošť] (Pelhřimov: Nová tiskárna Pelhřimov, 2012). 4 There is a fascinating documentary by a Danish documentarist, Lisbeth Jessen, Dr. Tramsen’s Rapport (2005), which tells the story of a doctor who helped to discover the truth about the Katyn massacre. It all started with a single skull discovered at the forensic pathology institute. When I present this documentary to my students, I often hear from them that it was the perception of history “through their ears” that helped them to understand the atmosphere of the period and the actual situation of the people involved. It may be a paradox, but the lack of a tiring and omnipresent visual dimension makes more space for auditory perception and opens the mind to the inner images enriched with individuals’ emotions. See Lisbeth Jessen, Doktor Tramsens rapport, Danmarks Radio, Copenhagen, 2005.
An Audio Drama on Lidice in Caerus Time
sented aurally, it increases their authenticity and “brings the past to life much more reliably and intensely than a polished written text.”5 In a similar vein, the Czech radio world was recently excited by the case of Rozeznění – Lidice 2012 (Resounding – Lidice 2012),6 which I will discuss in more detail, especially because it points to new possibilities for radio as a medium, and the radio or the audio play in relation to history and the new media. It also provides strong evidence of the fact that the chronos and caerus concepts of time do not always make an ideal match. Today, Lidice is a small village about thirty kilometres west of Prague, with a population of around five hundred. Immediately behind the village there is a bare meadow, empty space, no man’s land. This is all that was left after Lidice was burnt down on July 10, 1942, as the Nazis’ answer to the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the Reichsprotector of Bohemia and Moravia. This act would encourage the Czechs to continue fighting against the Nazis and stir national pride. On the other hand, it resulted in hundreds and thousands of people being executed and the village being burnt to the ground. Today, there is a large meadow with tarmac paths, a few old stones, a stream, a monument to the children of Lidice, and a large cross. The atrocities that took place there remain invisible, but they are still perceptible. We know that the present image of the landscape around us is a summary of past stories, and we often come to places that have a unique history and to people whose stories are equally distinctive, even if for a long time they stayed locked beneath the surface waiting for someone who would rescue them from the void. In the chronos concept of time, the dates, figures, and exact data are clear. The Nazis burst into Lidice in the early morning of June 10, 1942. One hundred and ninety-two men over the age of sixteen were shot dead at a local estate, sixty women were dragged away into concentration camps, and eighty-eight children were killed by gas.7 The story of Lidice is one of the key milestones in modern Czech history. Unfortunately, during the Communist era the story was adapted to suit the prevailing ideology and there were several set phrases about Lidice that were repeated over and over. At the beginning of the 1950s the memories of Lidice became the tool of Stalinist ideology. For example, Věra Michálková wrote: “In the Soviet Union and countries of the socialist bloc the free people builds as a commemoration to all Lidices in the world the most glorious monument – new towns and villages.”8 About ten years later, journalists reacted to a structural modification of 5 Udo Zindel and Wolfgang Rein, eds., Das Radio-Feature: Ein Werkstattbuch (1997; Konstanz: UVK, 2007), 81. Trans. Marcel Arbeit. 6 The official website of this project is http://www.rozezneni.cz. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/ Rozezn%C4%9Bn%C3%AD-Lidice-2012/302898806389371. 7 Some of the remaining men from Lidice were executed later and some children were sent for re-education to Germany. In total, 340 inhabitants of Lidice were killed. See, for example, Eduard Stehlík, Lidice: Příběh české vsi [Lidice: The story of a Czech village] (Praha: V ráji, 2004); Eduard Stehlík, Memories of Lidice, trans. Pavel Kurfürst (Praha: V ráji for the Lidice Memorial, 2007); Jolana Macková and Ivan Ulrych, Osudy lidických dětí: Vzpomínky, svědectví, dokumenty [The fates of the children from Lidice: Memories, testimonies, documents] (Nymburk: Vega-L pro Památník Lidice, 2003); Vojtěch Kyncl, Bez výčitek. . . : Genocida Čechů po atentátu na Reinharda Heydricha [Without remorse. . . : The genocide of the Czechs after the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich] (Praha: Historický ústav, 2012). 8 Věra Michálková, “Nelze zapomenout” [It is impossible to forget], Rudé právo, June 10, 1952: 2. Trans. Marcel Arbeit.
the commemorative rose garden, established in 1955 in Lidice as the Garden of Peace and Friendship – in the centre of the garden roses donated by individual countries were planted – in the following way: “Lidice became a warning that, through every rose and every wall of the new village bearing that name, tells evil fascist and reactionary forces every day: You will not destroy what you would like to annihilate! All your crimes will finally rebound against you!”9 Most of all, the Communist propaganda manipulated the destinies of the surviving women and children from Lidice. It lionised them if they lived in Czechoslovakia, but the names of those who lived outside the country were to be forgotten: “Comrade Šupík, born Doležal, is one of the children of Lidice who, after the 1942 apocalypse, was dragged away to Germany to be re-educated in a German family. Thirty years ago the Nazis thought that they had eradicated Lidice. In fact they eradicated themselves.”10 In this context it is useful to say that one of the authors of Rozeznění – Lidice 2012, Vilém Faltýnek, while performing research and gathering material for the Lidice project, made a radio documentary, Vyhlazení paměti (The eradication of memory, 2011), which attempted to take a new look at the tragedy of Lidice and made public some sensitive facts that had been taboo until that time. Dealing with the little-known fate of František Kubík, a Berlin-born intellectual from Lidice and an editor at the Czech News Agency, who was killed together with other men from Lidice, but in spite of that was sometimes considered to be a collaborator with the Nazis, he also described the lives of his wife Anna and his daughter Eva, who survived the tragedy and were reunited after the war. In addition to that, he describes the envy and even hatred that the women of Lidice felt against those whose children survived and were found. Because of the situation that prevailed in the village after the war, the Kubíks decided to emigrate in 1948.11 Maurice Halbwachs reminds us that “the way we reconstruct the past is largely dependent on the interpretive schemes of the present moment, which can derive from dominant ideology or deep-seated hegemony.”12 As early as 1964, the radio critic and theorist Josef Branžovský noticed that on every anniversary of the Lidice tragedy the radio kept repeating the same accounts, the same poems,13 and the same music: It is not our aim to change the historical facts or make up new ones. We just have to abandon the point of view from which we observe these events, to look at them from a different angle, an original angle from which the outlines will stand out more prominently and in a new light. Even 9 “Lidice hovoří” [Lidice speaks], Rudé právo, June 10, 1962: 1. Trans. Marcel Arbeit. 10 Zdeněk Provazník, “Kde kvetou růže z celého světa” [Where roses from all around the world bloom], Haló sobota, no. 22 (1971): 3–4. Trans. Marcel Arbeit. Haló sobota was a Saturday supplement of Rudé právo. 11 Vilém Faltýnek, Vyhlazení paměti [The eradication of memory], Český rozhlas 3 – Vltava, Praha, May 8, 2011. 12 Maurice Halbwachs, On Collective Memory, trans. Lewis A. Coser (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 50. 13 The most frequently cited poem was Vítězslav Nezval’s “Lidice,” which originally appeared on the third anniversary of the Lidice tragedy in Rudé právo, the official daily of the Central Committee of the Czech Communist Party: “My, my česká města, my, my české vesnice / žalujeme, i když není soudní stolice / i když není trestu, jenž by pomstil Lidice! // Lidská odveta je málo. Pomsta hvězd je větší, / Německo, ty víš, proč zajdeš v smrtonosné křeči!” [We, we Czech towns, Czech villages filled with passion / we accuse you, without a court in session / even though there is no punishment to avenge Lidice // Human revenge is too tame. It needs the revenge of the stars. / Germany, you know very well why in a lethal spasm you’ll die]. Vítězslav Nezval, “Lidice,” Rudé právo, May 10, 1945: 1. Trans. Marcel Arbeit.
An Audio Drama on Lidice in Caerus Time
the Lidice tragedy, if we go on describing it in the same words for the hundredth time, will cease to stir the listeners’ emotions.14
Now the former Lidice is an empty valley which is protected by the government as a national cultural monument named the Lidice Memorial.15 However, a local road cuts across the valley and people walk their dogs there. In 2011, the Czech composer Lenka Faltýnková and her husband, the radio journalist Vilém Faltýnek, who often walked there with their children, set in motion something that completely changed the character of this sacred place. They got the idea of looking for the real face of the village, of reconstructing the fates of individual families and their homes. They wanted to find out what troubled the miller, the teacher, and the priest, what the children and young people did for fun, and decided to create for the visitors to this empty valley an auditory experience which would pay tribute to all those who died back then. The Faltýneks founded a civic association called Sonosféra and, along with friends, they embarked upon extensive research in the archives, speaking to all those who remembered these events and their descendants, and they created precise GPS positioning for all the vanished houses of Lidice. Then they approached a young Czech playwright, Tereza Semotamová, who used facts, memories, and notes found in available publications on the tragedy of Lidice, in the local chronicle, and through interviews with survivors and their descendants. She created fifty-four short dramatic scenes from the life of Lidice before June 10, 1942. Then dozens of Czech actors devoted their free time to making a recording which works on the GPS technology principle. Since August 7, 2014, those who decide to experience an interactive audio drama such as this first download software and data from the internet onto their device.16 Then they take their phone and headphones on a walk through the place, during which they experience an audio play on its history as a mosaic, a fragmented structure of dozens of segments, linked by their GPS coordinates with the corresponding locations. The mosaic is specified by the terrain and the visitors, walking through the landscape, intuitively control the selection of recordings by changing position. While walking, they experience a composition of sounds and texts that is unique to each listener.17 The text of the “radio play that left the studio” was written for seventy-nine adult and eighteen children’s voices.18 The names of the dramatic characters are the names of actual 14 Josef Branžovský, “Ještě jednou o dokumentárním pásmu” [Once again about documentary sequences], Rozhlasová práce, no. 6 (1964): 85. Trans. Andrea Hanáčková. 15 For the official website of the Lidice Memorial see http://www.lidice-memorial.cz. 16 The technology of the application for mobile phones was developed gradually; now the 288 MB file is available for Android 2.3.3. and higher versions (the current version is 1.0.03). Technical data can be obtained on Google Play. 17 The technology has been successfully tested in Hackney in London. Francesca Panetta, with her project Hackney Hear, won the Prix Europa 2012 in the category Best European Radio Concept of the Year 2012 to Reach New Audiences. A similar project in the same category was launched in Berlin: Radioortung – Hörspiele für Selbstläufer. See http://www.hackneyhear.com and http://www.dradio-ortung.de/ radioortung.html. 18 Rozeznění – Lidice 2012, application for mobile phones by Jakub Doležal and Tomáš Hlušička, produced by the civic association Sonosféra o.s., http://www.rozezneni.cz/. Producers Lenka Faltýnková and
residents of Lidice (for example Anna Kohlíčková – 22 years old, Vašek Hanzlík – 28 years old, Věrka Honzíková – 13 years old).19 Short dramatic situations, several minutes long, introduce the village during both its ordinary and its highly dramatic moments: mother wakes up little Maruška and is angry because she does not want to get up; she will be late for school. Grandmother Saidlová and her granddaughter admire the Tatra 77 truck which has driven across the village green. The Hroníks are trying to talk their seventeen-year-old daughter out of a marriage; they believe she is too young to be married. The radio announces that retailers are obliged to check each egg against a light to ensure that they are all in perfect condition. The miller’s son got a new school bag. Older children who are doing forced labour in Germany write letters asking for parcels with food. The Studničkas listen to the radio at night and hear the long lists of names of executed Czechs. The priest and the sexton are raising a flag with the swastika and with disgust comment on an order to place Adolf Hitler’s books in the local library. Children write a dictation at school. A mother tells her son Vašík a story about a hen and a cockerel. Village gossips talk about Eduard Saidl, who, in June 1942, was in prison for murdering his son. The Kubíks argue whether they would have a better life in Prague. In the night hours mother Kopáčková alters her husband’s shirt for her son to wear. Children are surprised that the geese never get lost and always come back to the Lidice pond. The text does not have a strict dramatic storyline and, with regard to the technology used, it even cannot have one. It is more a fragmentary basis that is organised and dramatised by its users, who thus become active co-creators of the audio drama because the order of the individual dramatic situations and the links between them are determined by the route which the listeners take through the territory of Lidice. You can stand on the empty green meadow with a multi-player in your hand or bag, with earphones on your ears, and a child’s voice will populate the invisible space with persons no longer present: Maruška (Marie Doležalová, aged nine): We live in the first house in the village. It’s a small house; we have two rooms. I have a brother, Pepík, who is a builder’s apprentice in Buštěhrad; he is fifteen. Dad is an ironworker at the Poldovka factory. Uncle Kácl lives over there, behind the church. I like going to their place because they have a puppy named Punťa. I like playing with him. On my way to school I like walking down the hill because this way I can watch my village all the time. On my way back I have to climb the hill but I don’t mind because I look forward to lunch and mama. Besides, there are nice smells everywhere at noon because every mama or grandma cooks something different. . . Oh, today mama promised she would make some buns; hurrah! And there, over the street, is the Minaříks’ house. Our neighbours are the Říhas and, across the street, the Špots. They have little Hana, she’s just turned two. She is tiny and pretty as a little doll. I have seen her only a couple of times wrapped in swaddling. . .20 Vilém Faltýnek, script Tereza Semotamová, music and sound design Michal Rataj, directed by Thomas Zielinski, https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=cz.rdc.guide. 19 Tereza Semotamová, Rozeznění: Interaktivní audiodrama [Resounding: An interactive audiodrama], unpublished script draft, filed in the personal archive of Andrea Hanáčková. 20 Tereza Semotamová, Rozeznění: Interaktivní audiodrama, 5. Trans. Andrea Hanáčková.
An Audio Drama on Lidice in Caerus Time
The dramatic figure, the nine-year-old Marie Doležalová, who speaks to us, as well as the two-year-old Hana Špotová, were killed by gas approximately one month after Lidice was burnt down, like many other characters featured in this audio play. The site-specific auditory interactive version of the Lidice drama is unique, especially because it is situated in a sacred place, in a restricted area, and it inspires meditation about the memory of the place hiding under the surface. It is debatable whether this audio drama is more on the documentary or on the fictional side. Because of the number of historical sources used there is also the possibility of considering it as a sub-genre called a drama-documentary, docudrama, or dramadoc.21 The level of fabulation is relatively high; the authors primarily explored the aural potential of the specific historical site at a specific time. That is why we could also speak about this audio drama in the context of the archaeology of sound, a new scientific discipline that investigates the acoustic potential of historical objects, places in the landscape, and archaeological sites: the sources of the script of Rozeznění – Lidice 2012 were authentic memories, detailed historical notes, and entries in the local chronicle, and the audience perceives the stories in the very space where the burnt-out village used to be. We can therefore ask the question John Schofield considers basic for the archaeology of sound: what did it sound like in the past?22 The chronos concept of time speaks clearly again: seventy-one years after the end of World War II, in 2015,23 a generation of people in their thirties decided to depict the fates of individual people in Lidice. According to the caerus concept of time, however, it seems that in post-Communist Czechoslovakia the time has not yet come for viewing a historical event without the burden of ideology. Local people, the third generation left behind by the dead from Lidice, have not accepted the auditory processing of their own history. The Lidice Memorial had an official contract with Sonosféra on the creation of the artistic work, but has never supported the project, financially or politically. The archive of Sonosféra holds 128 newspaper and magazine articles, radio interviews and programmes, TV spots and internet texts reacting to Rozeznění – Lidice 2012. A key moment in the discussion about the audio drama was the minor contribution of the Prague office of the Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft to the project. The persisting trauma that governs official relationships between Czechs and Germans to these days, including the controversial expulsion of Germans after World War II, resulted in the outright rejection of this financial gift by the inhabitants of Lidice, local politicians and, unfortunately, also the mainstream Czech society. The strongly emotional, sometimes even hysterical reactions of the opponents of the gift were balanced with matter-of-fact arguments supporting the attempts at reconciliation and forgiveness. Antonín Nešpor, 21 See Guy Starkey, Radio in Context, 2nd ed. (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 179. Lee Thornton defines a docudrama as “a reenactment, or dramatization, of current or historical events” that “combines fictional elements with the re-creation of events and with documentary.” Lee Thornton, “Docudrama,” in Encyclopedia of Journalism, gen. ed. Christopher H. Sterling (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2009), 445. 22 See John Schofield, “The Archaeology of Sound and Music,” World Archaeology 46, no. 3 (2014): 289–91. 23 The application for mobile phones was made available to the public as late as 2014; before that, it worked only on two devices that the Faltýneks lent personally to everybody who showed an interest in their project.
the president of a civil society organisation called Lidice, a committed adversary of the gift, said: “Someone wants to abuse Lidice, and it is also the abuse of Lidice women. Lidice has only one truth, which is in its historical experience. It cannot be transferred beyond local families. Your grandfather was not shot dead.”24 The advocates of atonement used arguments similar to those of Tomáš Halík, the spokesman of the Czech Christian Academy: “The pressure connected with the return of the gift dangerously shifts the recollections of the tragedy of Lidice back to the times of Communist propaganda, which systematically used the event for anti-German campaigns and demonised Sudeten German organisations en bloc.”25 Although the Faltýneks returned the gift, the medially rewarding theme continued to divert attention from the work of art itself. Rozeznění – Lidice 2012 was widely debated in the Czech media in 2012 and the headlines in Czech periodicals very often appropriated, either seriously or with irony, phrases intimately known from the ideologues of the Communist era.26 The arguments against the audio drama were numerous and various. For example, the citizens of Lidice criticised the fact that the actors used a different dialect from that of their murdered relatives. Neither did they like the peaceful atmosphere of the audio drama, which, in their opinion, did not correspond with the extremely oppressive time after Heydrich’s assassination.27 Miroslav Kaliba wrote in Lidové noviny: “People who lived in that time still remember the fear of martial law, the tens of people executed, and SS raiding parties. . . . The fate of Lidice should be rendered dramatically, but outside the place where those people lived and lost their lives.”28 Many of the opponents’ arguments were irrational, such as “we simply do not wish to talk about it; evil is evil and time cannot change it.”29 Other articles initiated a debate on the meaning of the re-interpretation of historical events through artistic means. For example, Sandra Bejšáková wrote: “There is no space for fabulation in a territory devoted to piety, even in the form of a work of art. There is only space for facts and silence.”30 But there were also voices which took a more reasonable approach 24 Quoted in Martin Filip, “Lidické pobouřil peněžní dar od sudetských Němců” [People of Lidice outraged by cash gift from Sudeten Germans], MF Dnes, May 5, 2012: 4. Trans. Marcel Arbeit. 25 Quoted in Filip, “Lidické pobouřil peněžní dar od sudetských Němců,” 4. Trans. Marcel Arbeit. 26 For example, Bohumír Doležal, “Gauckova výzva: Naše stereotypy minulosti si rozvracet nenecháme, natož od Němců” [Gauck’s appeal: Nobody will subvert our historical stereotypes, especially not Germans], Lidové noviny, June 11, 2012: 6; -jk, “Odpor v Lidicích: Nechci tu poslouchat báchorky” [Resistance in Lidice: I don’t want to hear any stories], MF Dnes, June 5, 2012: 2; Adam Drda, “Sudeťácký strašák v Lidicích” [The spectre of the Sudeten in Lidice], Hospodářské noviny, May 14, 2012: 7; Pavel Kohout, “Rozeznívat Lidice se nevyplácí” [It does not pay off to resound Lidice], Lidové noviny, May 14, 2012: 6; Karel Holomek, “Památku obětí války si nelze přivlastňovat” [The memory of war victims cannot be usurped], Lidové noviny, May 18, 2012: 5. 27 See -čtk [the Czech News Agency], “Audiodrama k výročí tragédie Lidice odmítají” [Lidice rejects audiodrama commemorating the tragedy], MF Dnes, May 11, 2012: 1–2. Trans. Marcel Arbeit. 28 Miroslav Kaliba, “Když oběti mají právo mlčet” [When the victims have the right to be silent], Lidové noviny, May 21, 2012: 7. Trans. Marcel Arbeit. 29 Hana Čápová, “Neplodné Lidice: Snaha oživit památné místo utrpení narazila na stále živou bolest” [The infertile Lidice: An attempt to bring a memorial place to life collided with pain still alive], Respekt, no. 42 (2012): 44–45. Trans. Marcel Arbeit. 30 Sandra Bejšáková, “Na pietní území patří pouze fakta, říkají lidičtí pamětníci” [Only facts have a place in a territory devoted to piety, say people who remember the tragedy of Lidice], Kladenský deník, May 7, 2012: 1. Trans. Marcel Arbeit.
An Audio Drama on Lidice in Caerus Time
to the reality of the post-War destiny of the story of Lidice: “It is high time to realise that Lidice was for many years a taboo for documentarists; only one aspect of its history, the clearly tragic one, was shown, and for ideological reasons information about the des tinies of the survivors was frequently manipulated. But now they are working even with the names of those who people in Lidice do not want to hear about, for example because they emigrated.”31 There was also a debate about the ways in which the script handled the inhabitants of Lidice shortly before the tragedy. Alexandr Lukeš criticised the script for merely describing everyday banal events from the life of the villagers, and not properly reflecting the tragedy or moving towards catharsis: “Beyond all these pictures of everyday life there is no threat of the impending disaster that would add to it an ominous dimension worthy of an ancient tragedy. It does not matter that the author refused to depict the atrocities: she did not have to, but their latent presence cannot be denied.”32 There has not been any serious academic analysis of this audio drama so far. There was an hour-long television documentary which pondered the term “reverence” and looked for hidden motives among the project’s adversaries.33 Even though the auditory project itself was awarded a prestigious prize by a Czech independent art festival,34 the inhabitants of Lidice, with a few exceptions, remained unconvinced. The conflict escalated when politicians entered the debate. They took advantage of the 70th anniversary of Lidice’s destruction to work on their own image. The project became an easy target, as the debate in the media started when hardly anyone knew the final version of the work. During its first year the project also faced immense technical problems: at that time the GPS technology was not widely employed by the users of mobile phones. In spite of that, many people took the opportunity to express their opinions on a project they were not familiar with. Anger, irreconcilability, and a great deal of hypocrisy on the side of the critics resulted in a situation in which the Faltýneks, after an exhausting struggle, withdrew from any media coverage of their project. They completed the artistic and technical part of the project in their free time, as volunteers, and offered the project to people coming to Lidice directly, on the spot. They lent a multimedia player to each visitor who wished to experience the audio drama for one, two, three, or however many hours. As now the project can be downloaded, in Czech or German, onto mobile phones with the Android application, we will see in the future how many people will be willing to overcome the historical conservatism and embark on an auditory adventure. In conclusion, I return to the questions posed at the beginning of this chapter. In the chronos time, the era of the radio documentary has come to an end; slowly but surely. 31 Marta Švagrová, “V Lidicích zabolely staré rány” [Old wounds reopened in Lidice], Lidové noviny, May 7, 2012: 3. Trans. Marcel Arbeit. 32 Alexandr Lukeš, “Rozeznění zatím nerozeznělo nic” [Resounding has not yet resounded], Literární noviny, no. 23 (2012): 2. Trans. Marcel Arbeit. 33 See Martin Dušek, dir. Rozezlení [Enragement], Czech Television, Prague, aired on Mar 17, 2013. This TV documentary deals with the unexpected clash between idealistic artists and the conservative inhabitants of Lidice in relation to the 70th anniversary of the Lidice tragedy. Dušek is also the author of the script. 34 The authors of the audio-drama Rozeznění – Lidice 2012 were awarded the main prize at the Next Wave festival in 2012, in the Project of the Year category.
The dramaturgist of Rozeznění – Lidice 2012 offered an interesting observation: “Almost everybody who has spent one or two hours on their own and with the sounds of the former Lidice tells me: ‘It needs some pictures! Or videos!’ But we wanted people to create their own pictures. There are not too many people left nowadays who are able to do this.”35 It seems, however, that people will not give up so easily on the telling of stories. The Lidice project is interesting just because you can see almost nothing – grass, a few trees, and the odd stone. The important things, sometimes dramatic, sometimes funny, or even chilling, are conveyed by the sound. It is just that the creativity of the authors has to match the expectations and the mood of the audience. Ideally, they should meet in a unique moment, the appropriate moment of the caerus time.
Bibliography Bejšáková, Sandra. “Na pietní území patří pouze fakta, říkají lidičtí pamětníci.” Kladenský deník, May 7, 2012: 1. Branžovský, Josef. “Ještě jednou o dokumentárním pásmu.” Rozhlasová práce, no. 6 (1964): 85. Čápová, Hana. “Neplodné Lidice: Snaha oživit památné místo utrpení narazila na stále živou bolest.” Respekt, no. 42 (2012): 44–45. -čtk, “Audiodrama k výročí tragédie Lidice odmítají.” MF Dnes, May 11, 2012: 1–2. Doležal, Bohumír. “Gauckova výzva: Naše stereotypy minulosti si rozvracet nenecháme, natož od Němců.” Lidové noviny, June 11, 2012: 6 Doležal, Miloš. Atentát na Reinharda Heydricha. Dir. Markéta Jahodová. 10 parts. Český rozhlas 3 – Vltava, Praha. May 1–July 1, 2005. Doležal, Miloš. Jako bychom dnes zemřít měli: Drama života, kněžství a mučednické smrti číhošťského faráře P. Josefa Toufara. Pelhřimov: Nová tiskárna Pelhřimov, 2012. Doležal, Miloš. Nebe plné dýmu. Český rozhlas 3 – Vltava, Praha. June 16, 2010. Doležal, Miloš. Smrt generála Luži aneb partyzánská pomsta smrt za smrt. 4 parts. Český rozhlas 3 – Vltava, Praha. September 8–29, 2002. Drda, Adam. “Sudeťácký strašák v Lidicích.” Hospodářské noviny, May 14, 2012: 7. Dušek, Martin, dir. Rozezlení. Czech Television, Prague, aired on March 17, 2013. Faltýnek, Vilém. Vyhlazení paměti. Český rozhlas 3 – Vltava, Praha. May 8, 2011. Filip, Martin. “Lidické pobouřil peněžní dar od sudetských Němců.” MF Dnes, May 5, 2012: 4. Gutwirth, Václav. Duch dějin. Dir. Jiří Hraše. Český rozhlas 3 – Vltava, Praha. January 7, 2000. Halbwachs, Maurice. On Collective Memory. Translated by Lewis A. Coser. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992. Hanáčková, Andrea. A personal interview with Vilém Faltýnek. Lidice, August 24, 2013. Holomek, Karel. “Památku obětí války si nelze přivlastňovat.” Lidové noviny, May 18, 2012: 5. Jessen, Lisbeth. Doktor Tramsens rapport. Danmarks Radio, Copenhagen, 2005. -jk. “Odpor v Lidicích: Nechci tu poslouchat báchorky.” MF Dnes, June 5, 2012: 2. Kaliba, Miroslav. “Když oběti mají právo mlčet.” Lidové noviny, May 21, 2012: 7. Kohout, Pavel. “Rozeznívat Lidice se nevyplácí.” Lidové noviny, May 14, 2012: 6 Kyncl, Vojtěch. Bez výčitek. . . : Genocida Čechů po atentátu na Reinharda Heydricha. Praha: Historický ústav, 2012. “Lidice hovoří.” Rudé právo, June 10, 1962: 1. Lukeš, Alexandr. “Rozeznění zatím nerozeznělo nic.” Literární noviny, no. 23 (2012): 2. 35 Andrea Hanáčková, A personal interview with Vilém Faltýnek, Lidice, August 24, 2013. Trans. Andrea Hanáčková.
An Audio Drama on Lidice in Caerus Time Macková, Jolana, and Ivan Ulrych. Osudy lidických dětí: Vzpomínky, svědectví, dokumenty. Nymburk: Vega-L pro Památník Lidice, 2003. Michálková, Věra. “Nelze zapomenout,” Rudé právo, June 10, 1952: 2. Nezval, Vítězslav. “Lidice.” Rudé právo, May 10, 1945: 1. The Online Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek-English Lexicon, s.v. καιρος, in Thesaurus Linguae Graecae: A Digital Library of Greek Literature, gen. ed. Maria Pantelia. Irvine: University of California, 2014. http://stephanus.tlg.uci.edu/lsj/#eid=53563&context=lsj&action=fr om-search. Poulakos, John. “Toward a Sophistic Definition of Rhetoric.” Philosophy and Rhetoric 16, no. 1 (1983), 35–48. Provazník, Zdeněk. “Kde kvetou růže z celého světa.” Haló sobota, no. 22 (1971): 3–4. Rozeznění – Lidice 2012. Application for mobile phones by Jakub Doležal and Tomáš Hlušička. Producers Lenka Faltýnková and Vilém Faltýnek. Script Tereza Semotamová. Directed by Thomas Zielinski. Praha, Sonosféra, o.s., 2012. https://play.google.com/store/apps/ details?id=cz.rdc.guide. Schofield, John. “The Archaeology of Sound and Music.” World Archaeology 46, no. 3 (2014): 289–91. Semotamová, Tereza. Rozeznění: Interaktivní audiodrama. Unpublished script draft. Starkey, Guy. Radio in Context. 2nd ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. Stehlík, Eduard. Lidice: Příběh české vsi. Praha: V ráji, 2004. Stehlík, Eduard. Memories of Lidice. Translated by Pavel Kurfürst. Praha: V ráji for the Lidice Memorial, 2007. Švagrová, Marta. “V Lidicích zabolely staré rány.” Lidové noviny, May 7, 2012: 3. Thornton, Lee. “Docudrama.” In Encyclopedia of Journalism, gen. ed. Christopher H. Sterling. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2009. 445–49. Zindel, Udo, and Wolfgang Rein, eds. Das Radio-Feature: Ein Werkstattbuch. 1997. Konstanz: UVK, 2007.
11 Historical Trauma as Comedy: Lewis Nordan’s Textual Representation of the Emmett Till Case Marcel Arbeit Dealing with history in fiction is a tricky business. While many authors of historical novels try to be very faithful to the events they describe, they have to recognise that distance from the events and the impossibility of even eye-witnesses correctly remembering and interpreting what happened make any claims to objectivity and completeness futile. People usually remember best the visual characteristics of an event, but intricate networks of causality, scarcely understood in the first place, become even more clouded by the alternating versions produced from conflicting points of view, versions that have personal, social, or ideological motives, or are simply informed by a lack of facts or lapses of memory. Even in the case of notorious, highly publicised events, it is often not possible to reconstruct faithfully what actually took place and why. In this light, it is usually more rewarding for an author to try to recapture the contexts of such events: to reconstruct the overall social atmosphere preceding them, to point at the pressures, conflicts, and ambiguities that made them happen, and to show the consequences of the events for individuals and communities. The infamous murder of Emmett Till is definitely one such event. The trivia of the case are well known, even though it may be just textbook knowledge. On April 24, 1955, in Money, a small town in rural Mississippi, a fourteen-year-old black boy from Chicago, nicknamed Bobo, addressed a 21-year-old white shop assistant at a local store, Carolyn Bryant, asked her for a date and, while leaving, wolf-whistled at her. Three days later, Carolyn’s husband, Roy Bryant, and his stepbrother, J. W. Milam, kidnapped the boy from his uncle’s shack. After three more days, the dead boy was found in the Tallahatchie River, with a heavy gin fan tied around his neck with barbed wire, a fact that gave rise to a cruel racist joke saying that the boy tried to steal the fan and drowned while crossing the river with it. Till would have remained just one of the numerous forgotten victims of lynching if it were not for three things. First, his mother, against the pressure of the local authorities, which wanted the body buried in Mississippi, took the coffin by train to Chicago, where she publicly displayed the body, so badly bruised that it could hardly be recognised, for four days and allowed journalists to take photographs that were soon to be distributed all over the world. Second, at the end of the trial, set in Sumner, Mississippi, and richly covered by both the regional and national press, both murderers were acquitted by an all-white and all-male jury. Third, for approximately $4,000, the murderers sold their story to William Bradford Huie, an investigative journalist, whose article, aptly called “The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi,” appeared in Look magazine on January 24, 1956. In this article, both killers talked without remorse about the murder they committed and which, even from a distance in time, they saw as the only rightful solution to the incident in the store.1 1 See William Bradford Huie, “The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi,” Look, Jan 24, 1956: 46–50.
It is especially this article – supplemented by another, written by Huie one year later and published (also in Look) under the title “What’s Happened to the Emmett Till Mur derers?”2 – that is considered the most reliable source on the horrible crime. For quite a long time no one challenged Bryant’s and Milam’s trustworthiness, especially because it was believed that, since they could never be tried for the murder again, they had no reason to lie. Leaving aside the fact that they could have been tried for kidnapping, which is a federal crime when the victim is taken across a state border, as happened in this case, no one made any effort to further investigate testimonies that contradicted the murderers’ version, suggesting that more people had participated in the lynching, including Caro lyn Bryant herself and even an unspecified black person.3 There were other mysteries in the case. Was it true that in the store Bobo actually grabbed Carolyn Bryant’s arm and clasped her around her waist, as she claimed? Why did Bobo never try to escape from his kidnappers? Did he really have a white girlfriend in Chicago, whom both his friends and his mother knew nothing about, but Huie claimed he had traced? Lewis Nordan, who grew up in the town of Itta Bena, just a few miles from Money, and whose stepfather regularly bought moonshine from J. W. Milam’s brother,4 felt the murder of Emmett Till first of all as a trauma for the whole community. He built on the well-documented paradox that even though the local citizens considered Bobo’s act a disgrace and united in their effort to justify their twisted moral codes in front of strangers, after the acquittal of the murderers they distanced themselves from what they had done and, as Huie’s second article shows, even ostracised them. Retrospectively, Nordan claimed that he had performed the research for the book thirteen years before he decided to write it. He inadvertently used the key method of oral history when he interviewed a person who remembered the event (his own mother, who told him that they had never talked about Till in their home), and he searched in libraries – as early as in 1968 he copied from microfilm “by hand, onto a legal pad, every word about the trial that The New York Times had reported during that summer and fall.”5 When he finally recalled that one of his then schoolmates had courageously stood up for the black boy and refused to listen to the jokes about him, he decided to contact him. To his surprise, the schoolmate did remember the cruel lynching jokes but not his brave protest against them.6 Nordan’s own recollections of that case were also dim, but he turned this deficiency into an advantage: “The big blank spots in my memory were something of a blessing during the writing of the book.”7 2 See William Bradford Huie, “What’s Happened to the Emmett Till Killers?,” Look, Jan 22, 1957: 63–66, 68. 3 For a useful overview of the Emmett Till case, see Harriet Pollack and Christopher Metress, “The Emmett Till Case and Narrative(s): An Introduction and Overview,” in Emmett Till in Literary Memory and Imagination, ed. Harriet Pollack and Christopher Metress (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008), 2–7. However, the authors wrongly date the first Look article to January 17, 1956. 4 See Lewis Nordan, “The Making of a Book,” Oxford American, Mar–Apr 1995: 75. 5 Nordan, “The Making of a Book,” 75. 6 See Nordan, “The Making of a Book,” 76, 81. A distinctly different version of the story can be found in a 1997 interview where Nordan says about his schoolmate: “He may even be a greater hero to me now because he doesn’t remember the moment in his life which was so important to me.” Russell Ingram and Mark Ledbetter, “An Interview with Lewis Nordan,” Missouri Review 20, no. 1 (1997): 84. 7 Lewis Nordan, “Growing Up White in the South,” in Wolf Whistle (Chapel Hill: Algonquin, 2003), .
Historical Trauma as Comedy
As Susannah Radstone and Bill Schwarz emphasise in their introduction to a book on the complex relationship between history and memory, forgetting is a systemic part of memory, and it can be claimed that there is “no memory without forgetfulness, no forgetfulness without memory.”8 For a creative mind dealing with history it is both an excuse and an advantage. If forgetting is objectively built into memory, no reconstructions of events in a person’s life can ever be complete or even reliable, and it is then much more rewarding to reclaim the past anew, from a different perspective. Being aware of multiple discrepancies in the story, Nordan decided not to build one more memorial to the lynched boy. Instead, he narrates the story that he more than once called hyperbolically “the white trash version”9 of the murder case from the point of view of lower-middle-class white southerners, the section of the population to which both murderers belonged. His aim was primarily to disclose the everyday routines and rituals of the community members and to show what made the young African American boy a threat to the local status quo. Nordan did not try to make the voices of the community homogeneous; on the contrary, he focused on existing paradoxes, contradictions, and disharmonies, and, using his rich imagination, even added to them. For him, the aftermath of the murder became more important than the murder itself and even the murdered boy. As he once said: “It was not the Emmett Till story but a phantasmagoria based upon history’s broadest outline.”10 This was a reason why, after the novel was published, he tensely awaited the reactions of African Americans – the case was, first of all, their history and he could be considered an intruder who took the detestable events too lightly. However, the first black reviewer of the book, the renowned writer Randall Kenan, expressed enthusiasm for it, calling Nordan’s effort “brave and laudable,” even though “dangerous,” and although he voiced his disappointment over the fact that it was “solely the story of the white folk who committed the horror and the white folk who lived with their horror,” he concluded his review: “That he [Nordan] dared to tell this story with the chutzpah and pathos of a Southern-fried Dickens, . . . leaves a hope for us all.”11 Nordan’s rendering of the controversial topic as “phantasmagoria,” which for him means the covering of historical facts with layers of fictional, and occasionally downright fantastic narratives, is far from the approach of a traditional historical novelist. He even explained on one occasion: “I felt no defensiveness about the unreality of the book, and no burden of duty to ‘truth’ or history beyond my own personal, psychological history and truth.”12 In spite of that, I claim that his novel is a valid historical representation of the Emmett Till case and demonstrates new possibilities in fiction incorporating historical 8 Susannah Radstone and Bill Schwarz, “Introduction: Mapping Memory,” in Memory: Histories, Theories, Debates, ed. Susannah Radstone and Bill Schwarz (New York: Fordham University Press, 2010), 4. 9 Russell Ingram and Mark Ledbetter, “An Interview with Lewis Nordan,” 84. See also Thomas Ærvold Bjerre, “Interview with Lewis Nordan at his home in Pittsburgh, May 19, 2001,” Mississippi Quarterly 54, no. 3 (Summer 2001): 374–75; and Don Noble, “An Interview with Lewis Nordan,” in Lewis Nordan: Humor, Heartbreak, and Hope, ed. Barbara A. Baker (Auburn: Pebble Hill; Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2012), 50. 10 Nordan, “The Making of a Book,” 76. 11 Randall Kenan, “Mississippi Goddam,” Nation, Nov 15, 1993: 592, 594. 12 Nordan, “The Making of a Book,” 78.
events. In his book Meaning, Truth, and Reference in Historical Representation (2012), Frank Ankersmit, the Dutch philosopher of history (and a contributor to the present volume), wrote: “While so many contemporary theorists of history have used the novel in order to come to a better understanding of history, we should opt for the opposite route . . . trying to make sense of the truth of the novel.”13 I take up this challenge and, using Ankersmit’s approach to historical representation, have tried to find out whether Nordan’s novel did contribute to a better understanding of the widely discussed event, and more generally of life in rural Mississippi in the mid-1950s. Clearly distinguishing between representation and description, Ankersmit claims that whatever is presented through a representation, be it a person, a thing, or an event, “is merely an aspect”14 of these, never the whole, adding that such a representation can never be true or false, unlike a statement about that representation.15 In the only section of his book devoted to fiction, Ankersmit states: Writing a historical novel around a well-known and important historical personality is asking for trouble. For then the application of a historical representation’s represented aspects of the past to a person is likely to be complicated by facts about that person that the historical novelist will have to respect.16
The result is, as Georg Lukács observed, that main characters in historical novels (he takes as an example those by Sir Walter Scott) are usually boring and flat.17 To avoid the pitfalls mentioned by Ankersmit and documented long before him by Lukács, novelists can choose for their historical representations a genre different from the historical novel, a fictional genre that shows historical events without the boring load of minute historical details that can never be complete anyway, but enables the events to be seen in broader contexts, including their consequences for the future. Before Nordan, there were many fictional as well as non-fictional renderings of the Emmett Till case: numerous poems, some by such prominent poets as Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Audre Lorde, and Nicolás Guillén, a play by Toni Morrison, a novel by Bebe Moore Campbell called Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine (1992), and much more. A list published in 2008 contains one hundred and six works written before Nordan’s novel appeared.18 13 Frank Ankersmit, Meaning, Truth, and Reference in Historical Representation (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2012), 120. 14 Ankersmit, Meaning, Truth, and Reference in Historical Representation, 69. Italics in the original. 15 According to Ankersmit, representation is superior to description and has many advantages over it; one of them is that while in description reference and attribution are two different operations (we can ascribe to any object some properties that can be verified as true or false), in representation they take place at the same time and cannot be distinguished (a historical event is inseparably linked with its properties, which therefore cannot be labelled as true or false). See Ankersmit, Meaning, Truth, and Reference in Historical Representation, 66–67. 16 Ankersmit, Meaning, Truth, and Reference in Historical Representation, 122. 17 See Georg Lukács, The Historical Novel, trans. Hannah Mitchell and Stanley Mitchell (1962; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969), 32–33. Lukács nevertheless considers Scott’s use of “a ‘middling’, merely correct and never heroic ‘hero’” as a main character to be a proof of his ability to represent the past in all its complexity. 18 See Christopher Metress, “Literary Representations of the Lynching of Emmett Till: An Annotated
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Under the circumstances Nordan, even though he was familiar only with a small portion of the works on Till, knew very well even before he started working on his novel that it would be measured against the vast number of literary representations of the case and the boy, as well as several historical ones. In this context, Harriet Pollack noted that in the so-called postmodern era “history is understood as a construct that can be told many ways for many purposes and is essentially so like fictional narrative . . . that it is problematic to talk about ‘historical truth’ versus ‘fiction.’”19 Confirmation of this comes from psychologists. For example, Mark Freeman wrote that “to the degree that memory departs from What Really Happened, in the sensuous fullness of immediate experience, it [the memory] cannot help but falsify the past.”20 There were so many Emmett Tills, or rather so many descriptions and representations of Emmett Till from various angles, that Nordan needed a fresh approach to the character. Finally, he found a perfect solution. Till, nicknamed in the book, as in real life, Bobo, became almost invisible,21 to such an extent that Nordan, instead of choosing a version of the disputed sentence that the boy said to the white woman, thus sealing his fate, wrote just “He said what he said, Bobo did.”22 The black boy is introduced briefly at the beginning, saying not more than three sentences to other black children and “two huhs and a yeah” (38, italics in the original) to the man who later kills him, and then appears after his death through his magic and at the same time demonic eye, knocked from its socket by the murderer’s bullet. While Bobo’s dead body rests at the bottom of Roebuck Lake, Nordan’s substitute for the Tallahatchie River, the eye “that hung now upon the child’s [Bobo’s] moon-dark cheek in the insistent rain” (175) tells a final part of the brutal story, from Bobo’s death, through his murderer’s theft of the gin fan used as a weight, to the moment when the boy’s body is discovered, in contradiction of the known facts, two weeks later by two local boys. In this narration, which fills a single chapter of the novel, Nordan mixes details that are well known from the press or from the trial of the murderers and products of his imagination. It is not only an original artistic strategy but, as Bethany Perkins shows, also a good defence plan against prospective critics, as “had Nordan endeavored to recreate Till’s last words realistically, certainly some would have taken issue and questioned the veracity of his efforts.”23 In a 2002 interview Nordan himself admitted: “Now, the first time I wrote that, it did have Bobo in it and by having his point of view, his pain, his blood, his fear, it was unbearable. So I deliberately went through that whole chapter again and took out all reference to him . . .”24 Bibliography,” in Emmett Till in Literary Memory and Imagination, 223–50. 19 Harriet Pollack, “Shape-Shifting in Lewis Nordan’s Wolf Whistle,” in Emmett Till in Literary Memory and Imagination, 179. 20 Mark Freeman, “Telling Stories: Memory and Narratives,” in Memory: Histories, Theories, Debates, 272. 21 From a different point of view, Donnie McMahand claims that Bobo “disappears from the text.” See “(Dis)Embodying the Delta Blues: Wolf Whistle and Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine,” in Emmett Till in Literary Memory and Imagination, 209. Italics in the original. 22 Lewis Nordan, Wolf Whistle (Chapel Hill: Algonquin, 1993), 34. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text. 23 Bethany Perkins, “‘Not My Story to Write’: Indirection, Southern Discourse, and the Elusive Black Voice in Lewis Nordan’s Wolf Whistle,” Mississippi Quarterly 60, no. 4 (Fall 2007): 708. 24 Marcel Arbeit, “‘An Arm’s Length Relationship to Violence’: An Interview with Lewis Nordan,” Mississippi Quarterly 60, no. 4 (Fall 2007): 632.
In doing this, Nordan goes even farther than Ankersmit: not only did he recognise that it is not possible to grasp the personality of Emmett Till through a description and even less as a whole, but he made the shift from the synecdochal to the literal when he used pars pro toto as a reflector through which the audience is given one aspect of the notorious story. But this is not the end of it. Bobo’s magic eye also witnesses the metamorphosis of the boy’s dead body into a mermaid, a creature from fairy tales or legends, who then appears in the dreams of two white boys, luring them to come on the following day to the lake: He saw all this . . . and a beautiful creature of some kind, a mermaid, maybe, as she rose from the water, her breasts bare, and combing her long hair with a comb the color of bone, and holding in the other hand a mirror so dark and fathomless as the mirror-surface of Roebuck Lake, and Bobo knew that this mermaid was himself. (178)
While the replacement of the boy with the boy’s eye was a specific kind of metonymy, the mermaid into whom the dead boy metamorphoses serves as a metaphor which, according to Ankersmit, has the power to “focus our attention on aspects of things in the same way as representations.”25 The use of the figurative, instead of the descriptive, identifies Nordan as a writer who represents rather than describes history. As already suggested, representation does not imply truth. Ankersmit shrewdly states that this is not because representation goes against truth, but because it goes beyond it.26 Nordan was therefore able to shed the burden of a duty to decide what is true and what is false, and could concentrate on the storytelling process. The more he ignores facts and statements considered to be true, the more efficient his literary representation of history is. Unlike in the sciences, in the arts it is, according to Ankersmit, not “truth but style . . . what counts there.”27 Nordan’s style is linked with “speaking about speaking,” the only language practice Ankersmit considers usable for dealing with the past; he calls it “aboutness” and defines it as speaking “about the world only indirectly, via a way of speaking that is directly tied to the world.”28 This suggests that language used in any oral or written representations of history is, in fact, metalanguage,29 which again draws attention to the impossibility of grasping the past directly and authoritatively. From the literary point of view, it is useful to replace the vague term “style” with a more specific and relevant “mode” (in the meaning of an adjectival specification of a 25 Ankersmit, Meaning, Truth, and Reference in Historical Representation, 73. Italics in the original. 26 See Ankersmit, Meaning, Truth, and Reference in Historical Representation, 99. 27 Ankersmit, Meaning, Truth, and Reference in Historical Representation, 78. 28 Ankersmit, Meaning, Truth, and Reference in Historical Representation, 78–79. Italics in the original. 29 The concept of “speaking” in Ankersmit is without doubt figurative, as elsewhere he stresses that language, which, in contradiction to “speaking,” he understands in its narrowest meaning as a method of communication by means of words, “is not necessarily required for representation” and that “representation both logically and temporally precedes language,” as words are found only for objects or concepts that already exist. Of course, no literary representation of history can avoid language completely; it must rely at least on metalanguage. Ankersmit, Meaning, Truth, and Reference in Historical Representation, 85.
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genre)30 and, because it is possible to apply aesthetic criteria to a work of fiction, also “aesthetic category.” As we will see, the mode of Wolf Whistle is comic, and, correspondingly, from the aesthetic viewpoint the novel moves between three major subcategories of the comic, namely humour, the grotesque, and the absurd.31 Nordan himself claimed several times that he is a comic writer because he believes “that comedy comes out of darkness and that all comedy is underpinned by loss,” as well as in the power of comic exaggeration to make the exaggerated “more vivid to an audience.”32 This is an important step toward the fulfilment of another of Ankersmit’s basic features of representation, that is, that the viewer abandons the illusion of total precision and objectivity and openly takes “a certain attitude toward the subject.”33 Not only does Nordan adopt an attitude toward the grim event; by changing the geographical layout of the story and replacing historical characters with his own inventions, he prevents facts from eclipsing his broader picture of the region where the atrocity took place: The point of view of the novel is comprehensive, including not only major and minor characters, black and white, male and female, dead and alive . . . . It is a serious story, about death and grief and broken hearts, and in which credibility is a key, but it exists on a plane, sometimes comic, sometimes burlesque, just askew of the “real,” historical universe. That is my intention and my point: to render the natural world as itself and, at the same time, as unearthly.34
In contradiction of the historical data, Nordan sets both the kidnapping of Bobo and the trial in the same town, the fictitious Arrow Catcher. He departs not only from existing versions of the case but even from the “hard” facts concerning the two killers. In Wolf Whistle, they are not from the same class. The one who actually does the killing is a small-time criminal, Solon Gregg, who has a long history of domestic violence and has just returned from New Orleans, where he brutalised and robbed homosexuals. The other one, who in Nordan’s fictional version pays for the murder, is a local aristocrat, Dexter Montberclair, a Korean War hero with a passion for everything Mexican. Lord Montberclair, as he is known to local people, is, like the historical Roy Bryant, the husband of the woman at whom Bobo wolf-whistled, but otherwise he could not be more distant from him. Lord Montberclair’s wife Sally Anne, who has an understanding for the daring black boy and, to save him from being beaten on the spot, drives him home in her expensive Cadillac, is, unlike her real-life counterpart, just a customer who came to buy tampons. 30 For more about modes as “qualifications or modifications of particular genres” see John Frow, Genre (Abingdon: Routledge, 2006), 65. 31 As I will explain later, for me the grotesque is an aesthetic subcategory of the comic, not a form, or even a genre, as Harriet Pollack proposes in her article about Wolf Whistle. Her claim that in this novel “Nordan’s grotesque humor shifts between the absurdity of and the prevailing horror of cultural circumstance and national trauma,” besides arbitrarily replacing “comedy” with “humour” (which is a different category of the comic than the grotesque, terminologically on the same level), considers the comic in the novel to be “tragic” as well. See Pollack, “Shape-Shifting in Lewis Nordan’s Wolf Whistle,” 180–81. 32 Blake Maher, “An Interview with Lewis Nordan,” Southern Quarterly 34, no. 1 (Fall 1995): 118, 119. 33 Ankersmit, Meaning, Truth, and Reference in Historical Representation, 74. 34 Nordan, “Growing Up White in the South,” .
As Ankersmit’s theory implies, literary representation of history helps the reader “through the deepest abysses in human existence. . . . It gives us the language of poetry, of hate and of love, without which we simply would not be human.”35 Nordan’s novel serves as a prime example of this major characteristic of literary representation. In Wolf Whistle, all the events are talked about and commented upon by various members of the community, some of whom were even present in the store, which, in the novel, is called Red’s Goodlookin’ Bar and Gro., when Bobo wolf-whistled at Sally Anne. Among the leading community voices are the gravedigger, Cyrus Conroy, whom everybody calls Runt, his fourteen-year-old son Roy, Runt’s niece Alice, a schoolteacher fresh from college, and a group of black blues musicians who regularly sit on the verandah of Red’s store. Through their monologues and dialogues with their friends all the witnessing characters in the novel do everything to avoid responsibility for the racial violence and murder, and the same can be said about most of their activities. Red, the shopkeeper, like Sally Anne herself (and the novel’s readers as well) “didn’t even hear him [Bobo] say it [the daring sexist remark]” (34), but their later behaviour betrays the fact that they know exactly what the boy said and did. On the other hand, those who claim that they did hear it behave as if nothing had happened. Runt Conroy, the gravedigger, wonders “if he could teach his parrot hubba-hubba” (35), his friend Gilbert, a housepainter, talks with his blind dad about the physiognomy of a hellhound, and Rufus, a black shoeshine, sits up suddenly from his sleep and then falls unconscious again. Among the commentators, there are also pigeons in the rafters and buzzards on lamp-posts, but even they pretend that they heard nothing. For example, one of the pigeons says: “Maybe I was sleeping after all. I ain’t shore I’m keeping up with this conversation” (36). Rather than with humour, Nordan works here with darker shades of the comic, those infiltrated by tragic elements, that is, the grotesque and the absurd, the latter being the last step before a potential crossing into the realm of the tragic.36 Through imaginative grotesque and absurd additions, Nordan’s novel tells us more about the historical event than seems to be possible at first sight; such a possibility is closed to historians, who might treat both subcategories of the comic as topics of their historical research, but can never incorporate them into their style because they would draw them from the scientific and the exact to the aesthetic and the figurative. Still, the absurd can be especially helpful to historians, as it makes visible major historical paradoxes, which have so far been explored mostly by philosophers and sociologists. For example, Shlomo Giora Shoham, an Israeli sociologist and criminologist, provides in his book Society and the Absurd neurological evidence that supports the opinion that no real communication among people is possible, as all speakers (as well as recipients) have inbuilt defence mechanisms in 35 Ankersmit, Meaning, Truth, and Reference in Historical Representation, 99. 36 James Richard Giles recognised the role of the absurd in Nordan’s novel when he wrote that Nordan “would seem to add a further dimension to this complex narrative challenge by choosing to dramatize the Till tragedy from a perspective incorporating absurdist comedy and magic realism.” James Richard Giles, “Of Vultures, Eyeballs, and Parrots: Lewis Nordan’s Wolf Whistle,” in The Spaces of Violence (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2006), 61. For more about the use of the absurd in Nordan’s Wolf Whistle, see my article “Desperate and Happy in the Disharmonious World: Lewis Nordan and the Absurd,” Mississippi Quarterly 60, no. 4 (Fall 2007): 641, 644–45, 650–51, 655.
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their brains that censor everything they utter to avoid undesirable consequences; and, correspondingly, filter whatever they hear, blocking out any subversive pieces of information or at least adding unsubstantiated hope to objectively devastating news.37 Seen through Ankersmit’s theory of representation, the existence of such defence mecha nisms in human minds implies that people can never get close to a propositional truth about themselves and others but, if they can rely on a representation that is, according to Ankersmit, “more basic than [any] true statement,”38 they will at least never fall for the unhealthy illusion that they can get a complete picture and reach a full understanding of anything, including potentially life-threatening situations. Such an illusion, which is a result of the naïve preference for statements rather than representations, is shared by an overwhelming majority of people and can explain, among other things, the behaviour of the members of certain ethnic or religious groups, or advocates of unpopular political movements, who, when facing in various historical periods an imminent danger of the loss of their freedom, or worse, instead of taking the necessary precautions or leaving dangerous territory, wait, like sheep, to be terrorised and victimised. In Wolf Whistle, Uncle and Auntee, in whose shack Bobo is living, know very well that the boy is in danger and that they should immediately send him back to Chicago by train, which was also the advice of Sally Anne. Instead, they talk about the big supper of cornbread and potatoes with milk Bobo has eaten and when Auntee finally asks whether Bobo will be all right, Uncle says wishfully: “If love would save him, wouldn’t no harm come to him” (138). When, a few hours later, Solon Gregg comes to abduct Bobo, Auntee briefly thinks of using an iron poker as a weapon but, instead, joins her husband in a vain attempt to pacify the violent man by the offer of a cup of hot coffee and small talk. When, much later, Uncle finds the courage to point his finger at Solon during the trial, it does not lead to the murderers’ conviction, since the public as well as the jury are on their side, but at least works as a daring gesture that is mentioned in all the newspaper articles about the trial and is remembered as an act of civil disobedience in the minds of all southern whites. In the kidnapping scene, Nordan illustrates how the paradoxes of the absurd world work but, like the French existentialist theorists of the absurd, Albert Camus and JeanPaul Sartre, he does not use the aesthetics of the absurd for this purpose; rather than being comic, this scene is melodramatic and sentimental, which makes it, in spite of the fact that it is closer to documented history than any other scene in the novel, the least appealing part of the narrative. For a faithful description of the workings of the absurd world, which is full of disharmonies and paradoxes, there are no better literary means than those offered by the comic mode. The aesthetic and literary absurd looks for meaning in what originally seems to be meaningless and nonsensical, and finds logic in even the wildest paradoxes. The use of the absurd helps Nordan recreate a system of class and power relations that each individual inadvertently helps keep in operation, a system of 37 See Shlomo Giora Shoham, Society and the Absurd: A Sociology of Conflictual Encounters, 2nd rev. and expanded ed. (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 2006), 102–7. 38 Ankersmit, Meaning, Truth, and Reference in Historical Representation, 154–55.
loyalty and violence against anything strange and foreign, which extends beyond both the given historical period and the region Nordan uses for its presentation. How can Nordan’s use of the absurd correspond with his representation of the historical events? For the answer I turn again to Ankersmit who prefers to see existence “as a matter of degree rather than an either/or question.”39 Nevertheless, with a change of the degree, the quality of existence might suddenly change; it is the same as when within the category of the comic we gradually add tragic elements, causing at certain points a qualitative transition from humour to the grotesque, or from the grotesque to the absurd. There is, however, another affinity. A representation picks out one, and only one object, but it is not “one unique individual object in the world.”40 The absurd, as a liminal subcategory of the comic, can be applied uniquely within a representation but not to individual objects in the “real” world; it is because the absurd implies an absurd world, based on paradoxes, which is seen from that point of view as the only one that exists but, like Ankersmit’s world, is accessible only at second hand. For a literary representation of history, including Nordan’s novel, it implies that whatever is written on one object can be extended, through parallels, to other objects. Nordan’s parallels are at the same time surprising and logical. For example, one of the main sources of absurd comedy in the novel is Solon Gregg, with his inner conflicts, disharmonies, and paradoxes. The reason why he left for New Orleans was his son Glenn’s attempt to pour petrol over him and strike a match, that is, to make him a human torch similar to the ones the members of the Ku Klux Klan frequently made of African Americans. Adding this gruesome scene, which has tragic consequences for the child arsonist, who, instead of his father, seriously burnt himself, Nordan makes a daring attempt to turn the white killer into a “black” person, if not by origin, then at least by fate, thus creatively reacting to the real-life testimony that at least one black person was involved in the killing. Solon is a two-faced Janus, whose two contradictory identities show alternately within minutes or even seconds, within one paragraph or even a single sentence. On the one hand, he is a robber, thief, drunkard, racist, and homophobe, who constantly toys with the idea of slaughtering his family, but on the other hand he is a lover of music, especially African American blues, who deeply misses his sister, who married a black pimp, and lives with him and their black child in St. Louis. When Solon finds the courage to come home, not knowing that his burnt son’s state is critical, with no hope of recovery, he assures everybody that he is not angry with them, but the next moment he says: “I reckon I do got me a little bone to pick with him” (73). The rest of his family looks at him “as if he might be a man from Mars” (72) but Solon can make the family unite again through a traditional ritual of music making. The fami ly band, with Solon on guitar, his wife on a zinc washboard, and their daughter on a one-string bass made from a washtub and a broomstick, plays for one full hour a tune consisting of randomly remembered lines from various songs: “Bo Peep. Done lost her sheep. Done lost her sheep. So she come trucking. Back on down the line” (77). During 39 Ankersmit, Meaning, Truth, and Reference in Historical Representation, 83. Italics in the original. 40 Ankersmit, Meaning, Truth, and Reference in Historical Representation, 92.
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this musical ritual, all ills and grudges are forgotten. A very similar scene of bonding through music takes place in a barbershop in Belgian Congo, a black ghetto in Arrow Catcher, where the local barber and two friends regularly play the blues on guitars and a mouth organ. Setting aside the fact that the level of their performances is much more professional, music serves the same purpose for both the blacks and the whites: as a remedy against the hardships of life. For Solon, the only other remedy against the aches and pains of the human ordeal is a quick and painless death. In the solitude of a hotel room he contemplates suicide but, tasting the sweet gun oil, decides not to be selfish and to offer the same refuge to the rest of his family, including the dying Glenn: death would heal his burns and take away his scars (110). When Solon accepts Lord Montberclair’s offer to kill Bobo, it is not so much for money (later he throws the thousand dollars in banknotes he received from him out of a car window), but because he needs Lord’s powerful Luger with an extra clip to have enough bullets for every family member, to “close down his family life forever, end on a positive note” (124); several times he counts how many bullets he actually needs. In the light of this plan the killing of Bobo appears as a mere side-effect, only a means to serve a much more important goal. It becomes so insignificant for Solon that he even ruminates about not killing the black boy at all, so as not to waste precious bullets on him: He could pistol-whip that little motherfucker, scare the shit out of him, and then forget about him forever, just take care of family business . . . . That nigger would just find Dr. Hightower and get hisself a couple of stitches and, it wouldn’t be long, he would be eating crawfish and turnip greens . . . (124–25)
As it transpires, Solon seldom kills those whom he promises to kill. He does not commit suicide, and he does not slaughter his family; he does not even shoot Hydro, a feeble-minded shopkeeper who frustrates him with his unwillingness to become scared. Why, then, does he finally kill Bobo? The main reason is that the black boy refuses to communicate with him. Nordan presents a lot of dialogues that are, in fact, parallel monologues, highlighting through them the comic dimensions of the impossibility of interpersonal communication, but this is the only instance when one side responds with total silence. After Solon makes Lord Montberclair get out of his own El Camino at the point of his own Luger, he tries to talk with his prisoner. After a few remarks on driving in the rain, Solon starts a new topic, fishing. He noticed several fishing poles in the shack of Bobo’s Uncle and considers buying one of them: “What do you reckon your Uncle would charge me for a good fishing pole?” (164). Suddenly, there comes one of the moments in which he can identify with Bobo: “You and me, maybe we’ll get together, go fishing some time, what’da you think? Wet us a couple of hooks, you know” (164). Bobo is like his own son but, considering what happened to Glenn Gregg and what end Solon is preparing for him, this is not exactly a consolation. Shortly after Solon also throws out of the window, after the money, his small-calibre revolver, Bobo silently escapes from the moving car. Solon takes it as a personal affront:
Marcel Arbeit He thought, Well, I swanee. Ain’t that the limit? We’s just sitting here having us a friendly conversation, and first thing I find out, straight out of the clear blue, that boy ain’t even been listening. I knowed he was awful quiet, I ought to been done remarked on the rudeness of him letting me do all the talking, and goddurn it all if I ain’t feeling the least bit foolish right about now, finding out he wont even-down listening. (167–68)
The fact that Bobo does not accept his invitation to small talk is even more painful to Solon, as it reminds him of the “white-trashery” of his that Lord Montberclair never forgets to mention in his presence: “We need people like you to help keep our niggers in line. . . . It gives you lower classes, you white-trash boys, some raison d’être, wouldn’t you say so?” (118, italics in the original). Still, Solon also feels relief that he does not have to face the dilemma of whether to kill the boy or not any more: “It’s over. Thank-you-jesus. It’s all over” (168). Later he even starts to pity the boy and becomes worried about him: Sharp rocks he’s running on, just got to be. He hoped it was easier on his feet than it looked like, sho did. He spected that road gravel had clay in it, he spected Bobo had done sunk up over his shoes in red clay. . . . Cain’t be no fun, dying without your shoes on, rocks on your heels, mud like quicksand, rainwater standing up on that bloody little meat-raw nappy head of his like pearls, like a crown of jewels. (168–69)
In Solon’s mind, Bobo takes on almost Jesus-like dimensions, but Bobo is not one of those who, when slapped on one cheek, turns the other to his attacker as well. Nordan refuses to make Bobo a passive victim and his imagination leads him to shoot Solon four times with his abandoned revolver, causing him several painful injuries. The most symbolic of these are a few knocked-out teeth and the tip of his tongue being cut off, both severely limiting Solon’s ability to talk. Bobo’s choice of communication through violence instead of through words costs him, even before his death, his eye. Strangely enough, the loss of the organs only improves the corresponding senses. Solon can threaten Uncle during the trial even without his front teeth and a part of his tongue, and the dead boy’s knocked-out eye becomes magic or, even, demonic, and enables him to see what he “could not see in life, transformations, angels and devils, worlds invisible to him before death” (175). The demonic eye can see what Solon Gregg is doing, and when it sees Solon’s struggle with the heavy gin fan that is to be tied around Bobo’s neck, it even helps Solon “buoy it and ease its weight” (178).41 The possible reading of Bobo as a martyr is nevertheless just one of multiple potential ways to represent both the story and the history. As Ankersmit highlights, “if we have 41 In their account of the event in Look, the murderers claimed that Till, before they killed him, had really helped them to load the gin fan. See Huie, “The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi,” 50. Christopher Metress claims that Till has become “the literal incarnation of the anonymous ‘Black Christ’” and his slaying “is reconfigured as a Christ-like sacrifice.” Christopher Metress, “On That Third Day He Rose: Sacramental Memory and the Lynching of Emmett Till,” in Emmett Till in Literary Memory and Imagination, 20. The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture even lists him as a “civil rights martyr” who “was immortalized as a Christlike sacrificial lamb slaughtered for his people’s freedom.” Philip C. Kolin, “Till, Emmett,” in Race, vol. 24 of The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, ed. Thomas C. Holt and Laurie B. Green (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013), 259. The entry erroneously gives Life as the magazine that printed the murderers’ confession.
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only one representation of some part of the past, we have in fact no representation at all,” since each such representation “added to an already existing set will help the semantic contours of all others in that (always open) set.”42 Nordan’s comic version poses even more questions than the historically documented real-life one, but it also provides some answers, based on the intimate knowledge of the community that gave rise to the racial violence. For example, what is not discussed in other fictional or non-fictional renderings of the case is the degree of guilt of the entire community for Bobo’s death. Not only does Nordan refuse to place the blame on a vaguely defined and historically determined evil habit of segregation, but he also thinks about the guilt of local blacks, represented by the trio of blues musicians, sitting on the verandah of Red’s grocery store and later gathering in a barber shop. On the one hand, there are at least two white people who act against the major tides of public behaviour: unlike the historical Carolyn Bryant, who felt offended by Bobo’s wolf-whistling, her substitute in the novel, Sally Anne Montberclair, drives the black boy home and tells his grandparents about the danger he is facing. Runt Conroy also decides to warn the boy and his relatives, but unfortunately he goes to the wrong quarter of the town, thinking that all blacks must live in the black ghetto. On the other hand, the black blues musicians just wait for what will happen, expecting the worst. One of them asks his friend “What’d you do, Rufus? Act like you’s asleep and singing show tunes?” Rufus’s answer is: “I ain’t did nothing, I ain’t saying I did. Wasn’t none of me told him to be flirting with a white lady” (99). Such exchanges lead Barbara A. Baker to the conclusion that “the blues musicians in the barber shop are as responsible for Bobo’s situation as the white men at Red’s grocery store are.”43 Nevertheless, claiming that they “make humor out of the impending tragedy, just as the white boys in the locker room do,”44 she mixes cynical racist joking with the historical wisdom that taught the black musicians, unlike Bobo’s sheepish uncle and aunt, to approach unavoidable life tragedies through comedy. As both Nordan’s black musicians and his novel as a whole demonstrate, there is nothing wrong with treating tragic events in a comic way. In Ankersmit’s theory of representation, the comic aspect is necessarily, like anything else, only one aspect of things, and equally valid as others. In addition to that, as Ankersmit says, language representations of history “are defined by all the statements they contain,” which means that the relationship between a representation and what the representation presents “is determined by all and only all of the statements contained in the representation,” where a statement is a “uniquely identifying description.”45 Even though he considers only non-fictional representations in this context, his reasoning can be extended to fiction dealing with history as well, if we replace the somewhat limiting term “statement” with, for example, the more figurative “ingredient.” For Nordan’s novel, it implies that all its ingredients, that is, the descriptions, life stories, actions, and utterances of every 42 Ankersmit, Meaning, Truth, and Reference in Historical Representation, 146–47. 43 Barbara A. Baker, “Riffing on Memory and Playing Through the Break: Blues in Lewis Nordan’s Music of the Swamp and Wolf Whistle,” Southern Quarterly 41, no. 3 (Spring 2003): 37. 44 Baker, “Riffing on Memory and Playing Through the Break,” 37. 45 Ankersmit, Meaning, Truth, and Reference in Historical Representation, 94. Italics in the original.
character in the book, are equally important, providing evidence about the world where these characters live. Nor does Nordan’s deliberate decision to write against the facts devalue its potential to represent history because it does not matter whether what authors say through their characters is true or untrue, as “a representation may offer us evidence for true statements about what it represents,” but this “evidence is not truth,” since it “belongs to the world, while truth belongs to language.”46 We should never let this out of our minds, even more so because representations “have a tendency to behave like things in the world.”47 This is symptomatic of all narratives that abandon realism for more innovative and rewarding methods of writing. Nordan tries to explore whether the disgraceful act that went legally unpunished had some consequences for the life of the community. After the acquittal of the killers, the attendance of the old regulars at Red’s, the place where everything started, decreases rapidly. Not only do the black musicians vanish from the porch, but even old Red’s friends appear more rarely. Runt Conroy considers giving up drinking, especially after his friend Gilbert stopped coming completely, and there is a rumour that he joined Alcoholics Anonymous. But there are other people who do not seem to be affected by the recent events at all: the new young heavy-drinking regulars at Red’s. In another absurd scene in the novel, Runt Conroy describes how one of the new boys, who just bought a new axe handle, lines his friends up in the car park and strikes one after another of them with it. Runt, who does not believe that a sane person could like being struck on the head, observes in shock how some of the boys get in line a second time: “It was unsettling to be around people who lived where this thing had happened and for them to seem not to have noticed. There was a little too much of Solon Gregg in every one of these new boys, young men, for Runt’s taste” (260–61). But while these young people behaved as if nobody had died and no murderers had been acquitted, at least Runt will never in his life “trust a man who was not changed by local horror” (262). In an interview accompanying the 2003 paperback edition of Wolf Whistle, Nordan admitted: I had never really thought there was something wrong with black and white schools, white and black water fountains, white and black bathrooms, blacks in the back of the bus, and grown people saying “Sir” to children.48
Many years later he exorcised his traumatic childhood experience through narrating the story from a point of view that nobody had been interested in so far. Making the story comic, it could reach even people for whom the case was just an old monument. Even though this is not an authoritative account of Emmett Till’s killing, it is a compelling literary representation of a southern community that was hit by injustice more than historians ever expected, and learnt from it, even though in private and subtle ways. 46 Ankersmit, Meaning, Truth, and Reference in Historical Representation, 96. Italics in the original. 47 Ankersmit, Meaning, Truth, and Reference in Historical Representation, 97. 48 Lewis Nordan, “An Interview with the Author,” in Wolf Whistle (Chapel Hill: Algonquin, 2003), .
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Through his look at a traumatic historical event, Nordan created a picture of the community at a certain historical time that, even though it cannot be measured against a general truth, as such truth does not exist, combines a gratifying experience for the reader with a deep insight into the minds and souls of people who, even though they were products of the author’s imagination, were far more than static foils to a history passing by. While the theory of representation suggests that Nordan’s artistic methods are legitimate and adequate for dealing with history, Nordan’s novel, in turn, sheds more light on the local historical contexts of the infamous event.
Bibliography Ankersmit, Frank. Meaning, Truth, and Reference in Historical Representation. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2012. Arbeit, Marcel. “‘An Arm’s Length Relationship to Violence’: An Interview with Lewis Nordan.” Mississippi Quarterly 60, no. 4 (Fall 2007): 623–33. Arbeit, Marcel. “Desperate and Happy in the Disharmonious World: Lewis Nordan and the Absurd.” Mississippi Quarterly 60, no. 4 (Fall 2007): 635–60. Baker, Barbara A. “Riffing on Memory and Playing Through the Break: Blues in Lewis Nordan’s Music of the Swamp and Wolf Whistle.” Southern Quarterly 41, no. 3 (Spring 2003): 20–42. Bjerre, Thomas Ærvold. “Interview with Lewis Nordan at his home in Pittsburgh, May 19, 2001.” Mississippi Quarterly 54, no. 3 (Summer 2001): 367–81. Freeman, Mark. “Telling Stories: Memory and Narratives.” In Memory: Histories, Theories, Debates, edited by Susannah Radstone and Bill Schwarz. New York: Fordham University Press, 2010. 263–77. Frow, John. Genre. Abingdon: Routledge, 2006. Giles, James Richard. “Of Vultures, Eyeballs, and Parrots: Lewis Nordan’s Wolf Whistle.” In The Spaces of Violence. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2006. 59–74. Huie, William Bradford. “The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi.” Look, Jan 24, 1956: 46–50. Huie, William Bradford. “What’s Happened to the Emmett Till Killers?” Look, Jan 22, 1957: 63–66, 68. Ingram, Russell, and Mark Ledbetter. “An Interview with Lewis Nordan.” Missouri Review 20, no. 1 (1997): 75–89. Kenan, Randall. “Mississippi Goddam.” Nation, Nov 15, 1993: 592–94. Kolin, Philip C. “Till, Emmett.” In Race. Vol. 24 of The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, edited by Thomas C. Holt and Laurie B. Green. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013. 258–60. Lukács, Georg. The Historical Novel. Translated by Hannah Mitchell and Stanley Mitchell. 1962. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981. Maher, Blake. “An Interview with Lewis Nordan.” Southern Quarterly 34, no. 1 (Fall 1995): 113–23. McMahand, Donnie. “(Dis)Embodying the Delta Blues: Wolf Whistle and Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine.” In Emmett Till in Literary Memory and Imagination, edited by Harriet Pollack and Christopher Metress. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008. 209–21. Metress, Christopher. “Literary Representations of the Lynching of Emmett Till: An Annotated Bibliography.” In Emmett Till in Literary Memory and Imagination, edited by Harriet Pollack and Christopher Metress. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008. 223–50.
Metress, Christopher. “On That Third Day He Rose: Sacramental Memory and the Lynching of Emmett Till.” In Emmett Till in Literary Memory and Imagination, edited by Harriet Pollack and Christopher Metress. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008. 16–30. Noble, Don. “An Interview with Lewis Nordan.” In Lewis Nordan: Humor, Heartbreak, and Hope, edited by Barbara A. Baker. Auburn: Pebble Hill; Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2012. 147–55. Nordan, Lewis. “Growing Up White in the South.” In Wolf Whistle. Chapel Hill: Algonquin, 2003. [293–99]. Nordan, Lewis. “An Interview with the Author.” in Wolf Whistle. Chapel Hill: Algonquin, 2003. [300–304]. Nordan, Lewis. “The Making of a Book.” Oxford American, Mar–Apr 1995: 75–81. Nordan, Lewis. Wolf Whistle. Chapel Hill: Algonquin, 1993. Perkins, Bethany. “‘Not My Story to Write’: Indirection, Southern Discourse, and the Elusive Black Voice in Lewis Nordan’s Wolf Whistle,” Mississippi Quarterly 60, no. 4 (Fall 2007): 697–711. Pollack, Harriet. “Shape-Shifting in Lewis Nordan’s Wolf Whistle.” In Emmett Till in Literary Memory and Imagination, edited by Harriet Pollack and Christopher Metress. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008. 178–201. Pollack, Harriet, and Christopher Metress. “The Emmett Till Case and Narrative(s): An Introduction and Overview.” In Emmett Till in Literary Memory and Imagination, edited by Harriet Pollack and Christopher Metress. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008. 1–15. Radstone, Susannah, and Bill Schwarz. “Introduction: Mapping Memory.” In Memory: Histories, Theories, Debates, edited by Susannah Radstone and Bill Schwarz. New York: Fordham University Press, 2010. 1–9. Shoham, Shlomo Giora. Society and the Absurd: A Sociology of Conflictual Encounters. 2nd rev. and expanded ed. Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 2006.
12 Nuns Having Fun: Popular Graphic Representations of a Historical Issue Elizabeth A. Woock Designed to shock and awe, the combative nun characters appearing in modern-day comic books transport the reader to a fictionalised context in which the nun acts as a lightning rod for romanticised medievalism. Drawing on the film studies and art history disciplines represented in this volume, this chapter looks into the popular medium of comic books and graphic novels and their role in representing the archetypal nun. Her visual and literary legacy is built upon waves of reinterpretation going as far back as late medieval conceptions of early Christian martyr saints, building an image of devout, monastic women sacrificing themselves in the face of great violence for the sake of their sacred profession. Thus, the reverberations of the presentation and re-presentation of pugnacious sisters-in-arms create an archetype that is both wholly modern and yet timelessly capable of reinvention. I do not intend this chapter to be a definitive account of all occurrences of nuns in comic books. Rather, I would like to propose a few concepts to address the phenomenon, with the aim of orienting both readers who possess full comic book literacy and those who are uninitiated in the genre. My title “Nuns Having Fun” is intentionally flippant, contrasting the flippancy of religious figures in cartoons and the sombre analytics of academic work. This chapter is concerned with the framing and depiction of nuns and religious women in comics, the historical precedents for these, and the implications of such characterisations in contemporary culture, not only in theory, but for the end consumer as well. As an amateur producer of comic books and illustrations myself, I have been drawn into the current debates about the treatment of female characters in the traditionally masculine media of computer games and comic books. My graphic work revolves around the interpretation of primarily ancient, medieval, and early modern sources, usually with the aim of creating material that is both sincere and consumable, as well as artistic. This brought to my attention works with similar ambitions, such as Claire Bretécher’s graphic novel La vie passionnée de Thérèse d’Avila (1980), which is based on the life and written accounts of the sixteenth-century saint.1 The writings by the nun herself are considered to be a great contribution to the history of mysticism in Christianity, and the light-hearted depiction of a saint in the comic book – a stark contrast to the gravity with which the painter François Gérard imagined her around the year 1820 – raised my curiosity about the choices of the artists. During my investigations into contemporary reactions to the new mendicant orders spreading throughout Europe in the thirteenth century, I came across both derisory caricatures of nuns and the very solemn images of saints commissioned by monastic institutions, saints who were exalted as role models for women in their spiritual vocation.2 1 See Claire Bretécher, La vie passionnée de Thérèse d’Avila [The passionate life of Teresa of Avila] (1980; Paris: Dargaud, 2007). 2 I use the term “mendicant” here in the meaning “a member of a religious order . . . combining monastic life and outside religious activity,” not referring to their practising of mendicancy, that is, begging.
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An attempt to address the phenomenon of nuns in comic books can seem doomed to become mired in a mess of shocking, isolated examples. Henry A. Kelly warns: “There are lots of pitfalls in dealing with all historical subjects, but religious topics have some peculiar dangers. . .”3 A serious examination of nuns in comic books not only faces several sensitive themes but also brings gender issues into the fray. The endeavour is fraught with the potential to reduce the artists to misogynistic opportunists, to view the characters themselves as erotic fantasies, and the production of such comics as consumerism at its worst. In the sphere of recurrent female stock characters, nuns appear with the same regularity and standardisation that comic book consumers expect of other stock figures. However, religious female characters must navigate a unique cultural terrain of both inherited and modern issues. The depiction of nuns in comics is the translation of graphic traditions into a modern visual language. As Maureen Moran suggests, in order to broach a temporally and culturally complex issue, readers “must inhabit a double time, simultaneously both early Christian and modern.”4 While approaching it through this “double-gaze,”5 we must maintain what Judith M. Bennett calls “essential epistemic humility”6 in order to avoid an anachronistic analysis of a historical subject or, conversely, to avoid judgment of modern phenomena through the prism of our lived experience. But the double-gaze is insufficient without comic book literacy and contextualisation of the nun character within her graphic evolution. The following pages will approach nun characters in comic books as archetypes, involving standardised characteristics and storylines, employed in some cases as stock characters. The nun character is, moreover, intrinsically related to contemporary romanticisation of the Middle Ages, as well as to Victorian medievalism, and carries graphic baggage acquired over centuries of popular depictions of religious women. Though the sexual charge of certain depictions of nuns can be shocking to readers unaccustomed to what is absolutely standard comic book artwork, the specific issues surrounding the visualisation of female characters in general will not be addressed here. That is a thorny topic in its own right, and occupies the full attention of other authors.7 Nor will we disSee Merriam-Webster Dictionary, s.v. “mendicant.” Some notable women involved in the early creation of female mendicant communities include Saint Clare of Assisi, Saint Margaret of Hungary, and Saint Agnes of Bohemia. For more information see, for example, Penelope D. Johnson, Equal in Monastic Profession: Religious Women in Medieval France (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), or Leslie Knox, “Audacious Nuns: Institutionalizing the Franciscan Order of Saint Clare,” Church History 69, no. 1 (Mar 2000): 41–62. 3 Henry Ansgar Kelly, “A Neo-Revisionist Look at Chaucer’s Nuns,” Chaucer Review 31, no. 2 (1996): 115. 4 Maureen Moran, “The Art of Looking Dangerously: Victorian Images of Martyrdom,” Victorian Literature and Culture 32, no. 2 (2004): 479. 5 Moran, “The Art of Looking Dangerously,” 479. 6 Judith M. Bennett, “Medievalism and Feminism,” Speculum 68 (1993): 322. 7 Some informative introductions to this topic can be found in the works of Jeffrey A. Brown, who examines the evolution of roles given to female action characters in film in “Gender and the Action Heroine: Hardbodies and the ‘Point of No Return,’” Cinema Journal 35, no. 3 (Spring 1996): 52–71. Sheri Klein looks at the depiction of women in media, particularly comics, in “Breaking the Mold with Humor: Images of Women in the Visual Media,” Art Education 46, no. 5 (Sept 1993): 60–65.
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cuss the more intensely sensational use of nun characters in erotic comics, though such series technically also fall under the umbrella of “nuns in comics.”8 The examples on which this study draws are taken from comic book series that are widely circulated and accessible, with a reasonably large readership, or comic book series that are popularly regarded as classics. Nun characters appearing in purely supporting roles or in peripheral series9 are not deeply analysed in this study, although their characteristics were noted and can generally be said to agree with the wider findings. Faced with a plethora of examples, how can we tease out what makes the nun character stand out within the context of female characters in general? Comic books un abashedly use stock characters built on established tropes in order to move the story along or to invoke a previously established context, as shorthand for peopling a comic book world which has to be squeezed into thirty pages or less. A quick survey of other female stock characters, such as superheroines or supporting characters for male superheroes, shows how unique the nun is among these. Among the stock female characters who are at the same time sex objects, there are the femme fatale (buxom and dressed in black), bimbo (cheerful, blonde, and dull), sexy librarian/journalist/hacker (usually acting as a living information-gap filler), ingénue (fresh-faced and simple), sexy android or alien (emotionless and perfect), and flawed alpha female (who just wants a man). Of course, there are also non-sexual characters, such as the hag (an old woman of frightful appearance) or mum (a romantically undesirable supporting female of advanced age). Finally, there are masculinised women: the Amazon (buff and militant), the barbarian (not unlike the Amazon, rough, athletic, and featuring costumes of either ancient or savage design), and the powerful princess (usually a girl of immense family wealth). There are also combinations of the above.10 Nuns do not come close to any of those existing stock characters, yet as a group they have a unique and consistent set of characteristics. Nuns become stock characters in that they have slavishly repeated storylines and characteristic traits that can be referenced in shorthand by a comic book artist or author. The consistently repeated visual signifiers are a generic habit (white wimple, black hood), exaggerated religious paraphernalia, superior strength or physicality, and their weapons, usually a sword or a gun. Some of the characteristic elements are more abstract or demonstrative, such as the capability to perform supernatural feats in the form of miracles while encircled by or in opposition to other members of the convent, and, finally, the explicit motivation tied to their religious vocation. There are other characters that are shown with various degrees of revealing clothes, or with a substantial stylisation. However, in all nun characters the presence of these elements is basic. 8 See, for example, Dave Sheridan, Robert Crumb, Spain Rodriguez, Jaxon, Roger Brand, and Pat Ryan, Tales from the Leather Nun (Last Gasp Eco-Funnies, 1973). 9 There are many small-scale or locally printed comics that could feature nun characters, but because of their limited circulation it is next to impossible to identify every occurrence of a nun in them. 10 For more about female characters in comics, in part via film studies, see, for example, Jeffrey A. Brown, Dangerous Curves: Action Heroines, Gender, Fetishism, and Popular Culture (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2011); Hillary L. Chute, Graphic Women (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010); Mike Madrid, The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines ([N. p.]: Exterminating Angel Press, 2009).
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The weaponry most often attributed to nun characters is very telling. Comic books tend to include a lot of violence, and a character’s weapon or fighting skills are often an integral part of their persona. The recurring fighting style of nuns is perhaps closest to that of the Amazon or barbarian characters. Unlike other female comic book characters, such as Supergirl, they do not rely on super powers of a sci-fi of wildly imaginative sort but they are endowed with supernatural powers of divine origin.11 Moreover, they use “phallic” swords and guns and hardly ever choose contact-free weapons.12 The Amazon and barbarian heroines – such as Xena from Xena, Warrior Princess, She-Ra from She-Ra: Princess of Power (1985), and Red Sonja from Conan the Barbarian13 – use axes and swords as well but, unlike nuns, they are almost entirely fabricated, and not present among us today. The storylines involving nuns are also formulaic. There is no nun without a convent, and they are always contextualised as either acting within or against their community; the nun super-heroine is acting either as an agent of the sisterhood or within the framework of nun “escape stories.” These are usually set in some dualistic Judeo-Christian conflict, although they vary between good and evil alignment. Some or all of these key signifiers are utilised to form a single character within one of many visual languages, which creates the visual presentation that readers experience when they open up a comic book. The traits are then filtered into what Neil Cohn calls a “visual language” (VL) the most common of which are “Mainstream American VL” (or “Kirbyan”), “Cartoony American VL” (“Barksian”), Japanese VL, and Independent VL.14 There are, of course, almost infinite variations created by artists within a single visual language, but here are some examples for orientation. Kirbyan visual language is the most common one in American and Western comic books, and gives its characters a clean, athletic look that is indicative of traditional su11 There is no literature dealing with the useful and relevant difference between “super powers” and “supernatural powers.” While miracles performed by religious figures are never referred to as “super powers,” the concept of “supernatural” is frequently related to acts of God. See, for example, Marie Pagliarini, “‘And the Word Was Made Flesh’: Divining the Female Body in Nineteenth-Century American and Catholic Culture,” Religion and American Culture 17, no. 2 (Summer 2007), 225. The term “super powers,” commonly used in comic book literature, has no inherent connection to religion or Christian tradition. 12 Other comic book heroines prefer contact-free weapons: for example, Catwoman (Selina Kyle) from Batman and Wonder Woman (Diana Prince) from the eponymous series use whips, women in X-Men use noncontact restricting powers, and the Black Canary (Dinah Lance) uses a lethal sonic cry. It is true that Wonder Woman has an Amazonian backstory but her adventures involve an invisible aeroplane and other modern oddities. 13 All the heroines appear in comic books and their film adaptations in various incarnations and under different names. Xena appeared in Topps Comics in 1997–1998 and Dark Horse Comics in 1999–2000; the four-volume collected edition of Xena, Warrior Princess appeared in 2000. She-Ra, a.k.a. Princess Adora appeared for the first time in the TV series She-Ra: Princess of Power (Filmation Associates, 2005–2007); there were 93 episodes in three seasons. Red Sonja, whose origin goes back to the 1930s, is still best known for Richard Fleischer’s film Red Sonja (Dino di Laurentiis, 1985). 14 See Neil Cohn, The Visual Language of Comics (New York: Bloomsbury, 2013), 139–44, 153–56. The “Kirbyan” is named after the pioneer comics artist Jack Kirby (1917–1994), who created Captain America and went on to work for both Marvel Comics and DC. The “Barksian” refers to Carl Barks (1901–2000), who worked for the Disney Studio and became famous for his comics about Donald Duck and as the creator of Uncle Scrooge.
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perheroes or other typical genre characters. Within this visual language, nun characters often take on a more suggestive physicality, though this is more the effect of the visual language than an intentional message about the personality of the nun. Comic book series that use a more traditional visual language include The Magdalena, Le Troisième Testament, or Warrior Nun Areala.15 Barksian and Independent comic books both encompass a wide range of subcategories and variations. Barksian visual language is distinguished by the simplicity of facial features and comically exaggerated physicality, for example, bulbous noses or hands composed of only four fingers. Independent visual language contains all those variants that cannot be readily categorised into Kirbyan or Barksian standards. Several comic book series featuring nun characters fall into a grey area between Barksian and Independent – the illustrations are simplified for humorous effect, but include many aspects which are idiosyncratic to a specific artist. Comic book series that use this range of visual languages include Suore Ninja and Sister Claire, and La vie passionnée de Thérèse d’Avila also belongs here.16 The range of visual languages would be incomplete without including Japanese visual language. Because of the enduring popularity of manga comics both domestically and in the West, this visual language has crossed borders through translation, adaptation, and imitation. As the users of Japanese visual language frequently exploit exoticised Christian European tropes, many Japanese comic books feature nun characters, often combined with subplots involving vampirism. While these comics are often detached from European culture or misinterpret it, the visual signifiers listed earlier are still employed. Within Japanese visual language, there is often an emphasis on dress, community, and supernatural powers (in opposition to super powers, which are not from God but rather from outer space) associated with the nun character. Comic book series that use Japanese visual languages include Hellsing (whose nun characters are sometimes featured in their own chapters), A Certain Magical Index, and Trinity Blood.17 It would also be possible to include the popular and widely circulated series Claymore.18 Although the community of female characters in this series are not explicitly nuns, they work in concert with the Church, and are formed on a Joan of Arc visual theme as female warriors in medieval armour, carrying the massive swords after which the series is named. Inducted into their order through vows and initiation, they are transformed into winged creatures that draw heavily on European Christian conceptions of 15 Joe Benitez et al., The Magdalena, vol. 1–12 (Top Cow Productions, Apr 2010–Apr 2011); Alex Alice and Xavier Dorison, Le Troisième Testament [The third testament], vol. 1–2 (Glénat; Grafica, June 1997–Nov 2013); Ben Dunn, Warrior Nun Areala, vol. 3, issues 1–19 (Antarctic Press, Dec 1995–Feb 2001). 16 Davide La Rosa and Vanessa Cardinali, Suore Ninja [Ninja nuns], vol. 1–6 (Star Comics, Mar 14, 2013–Jan 2014); Elena Barbarich, Sister Claire, vol. 1–2 (Dec 2013–ongoing as of Sept 2014), http://www.sisterclaire. com/, last accessed Oct 1, 2014; see also Bretécher, La vie passionnée de Thérèse d’Avila. 17 Kouta Hirano, Hellsing, vol. 1–10 (Young King OURs; Shonen Gahosha, Sept 1999–March 2009); Kazuma Kamachi and Chuya Kogino, A Certain Magical Index (Toaru Matjusu no Indekkusu), vol. 1–14 (ASCII Mediaworks, Nov 2007–ongoing as of Oct 2014); Sunao Yoshida and Thores Shibamoto, Trinity Blood, vol. 1–2 (Kadokawa Shoten, Apr 2001–Nov 2003). 18 Norihiro Yagi, Claymore, vol. 1–26 (Shueisha, Jan 2002–ongoing as of June, 2014).
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angels mixed in a Gothic way with gargoyles, demonstrating all the characteristics of religious women or crusaders on the periphery of monasticism. The characteristic features of nuns in comic books are neither accidental nor innovative. Rather, the most significant characteristic of religious women in comic books is their dogged reliance on historical tropes. Nun characters are a vehicle for romanticised medievalism: they are almost always placed in a Gothic environment, and all the elements of their presentation draw on remnants of various phases of medievalism. We have examined how the nun character exists as an abstraction and a stock character, but before attempting to understand this in contemporary application, we must ask: when female monastics are contemporary, and the nun characters interact with modern characters, why are they retrofitted into a hyper-romanticised medieval context and where do their storylines originate? From the beginning, nuns as Christian women were characterised by religious fervour and vigour and their initial presentation came through the hagiography of early Christian martyrs. Jo Ann McNamara gives as an example Saint Perpetua, who, in order to brave the ordeals of the arena,19 is said to have “systematically stripped herself of all that had made her a woman,”20 and the strength which allowed her to bear her violent fate is characterised as “masculine.” The fortitude that can be seen in modern comic book nuns has a very long pedigree. The tradition of depicting religious women with swords is also initiated from the outset with iconography that depicts martyr saints with the weapons of their own execution. In addition to the Virgin Mary, whose story is nothing less than heroic, nuns preferred to dedicate their convents to female patron saints, the most popular being the heroic martyrs: Saint Catherine (of Alexandria), Saint Margaret, Saint Thecla, and Saint Agnes of Rome.21 The popularity of Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret is particularly interesting. Saint Catherine, who was possibly a fabricated character, but enjoyed a great repute especially at the time of the Crusades, is a saint of heroic spiritual combat, a martyr, depicted not only with the wheel, but frequently with a sword. Saint Margaret is also usually depicted with a sword, and although in this case the weapon is symbolic of execution rather than sword-fighting, a legend shows her killing a dragon. Both Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret appeared in visions to Joan of Arc, and according to a legend it was at a church consecrated to Saint Catherine that Joan of Arc found her sword, thus making the symbolic weapon an active one.22 Saint Thecla rejected social conventions by cutting
19 Supposedly living at the turn of the 3rd century AD, Saints Perpetua and Felicity were early Christian martyrs. Their legend was recorded in both Latin and Greek, describing their martyrdom in an arena by decree of the Roman emperor Septimius Severus; they were set upon by wild beasts and swordsmen until they died of their injuries. 20 Jo Ann McNamara, Sisters in Arms: Catholic Nuns through Two Millennia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998), 31. 21 See McNamara, Sisters in Arms, ix. 22 These legends and others can be read in a range of sources. See, for example, Alban Butler, The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints (Dublin: James Duffy, 1866).
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her hair and serving the budding Christian community in the same manner as a man,23 while the hair of Saint Agnes of Rome was miraculously transformed into armour around her body to protect her from harm. In general, saints are a type of pictorial stock character, recognisable by their symbolic attributes; their images immediately communicate not only aspects of their legends, but also their supernatural powers. Rather than be held to their secular roles, dictated by gender, the women of the early Christian Church seized opportunities to expand their influence and possibilities. Virgins (both men and women) enjoyed a special position within the Christian community, including enhanced spiritual roles. For females, virginity raised them to the same level as men, or even higher, by relieving them of the qualities that made them women. While popular conceptions of sexuality today see gender as binary, at that time, as McNamara states, “monastic theorists tended to conceptualize a third gender, apart from the two sexually active genders, harking back to the old view that, without active sexual and reproductive activity, gender did not exist.”24 Later in the Middle Ages, religious women were organised into controlled commu nities and monasticism was standardised. Theologically and practically, female monastics entered a negative feedback loop; they were increasingly pushed into dependence on the cura monialium (obligation for the care of nuns), while simultaneously they were derided as weak and burdensome. The respect that had been garnered through the preservation of virginity “lost its transformative power when virgins were thus reduced to allegorical brides.”25 This re-feminised role opened the door to the later sexualisation and consequent demonisation of womanhood. Women took on more restricted, cloistered roles, even as convents were more and more disenfranchised. In claustration, the community became inseparable from the identity of a nun, and religious women seeking freer expression joined alternative communities. At the same time the visual signifiers of a spiritual vocation, such as the distinctive habit, were formalised. Nuns in contemporary comic books are a shorthand embodiment of Victorian medievalism – Gothic in the literary sense of the word. They are placed in environments loadad with popular cultural symbols of the Gothic: raw stone interiors with vaulted ceilings, ominously illuminated by candles, and halls filled with statues of saints raising their hands in solemn prayer. Although the style of comics today may seem fresh and modern, readers unconsciously use their “double-gaze” in order to project the medieval qualities of a Victorian romance onto their twenty-first century page, utilising much of the symbolic information that has accumulated through the ages. Thus, regardless of being set, for example, in a kung-fu zombie story or a space western, an anachronistic buxom nun in a black habit and armed with a sword seems more predictable than a fat nun equipped with a neon-green habit and a laser gun, although the setting may rather suggest the latter. 23 McNamara, Sisters in Arms, 25. 24 McNamara, Sisters in Arms, 144. 25 McNamara, Sisters in Arms, 44.
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In many ways, nun characters in Gothic literature, for example in the work of Charlotte Dacre, an English writer of Gothic novels,26 mirrored the masculinised religious woman of the early Christian Church, violating the sensibilities of nineteenth-century contemporaries with their brutal affront to feminine ideals. According to Moran, in the presentation of stories about saints and martyrs, nineteenth-century readers were again forced to accept a duality of gender roles encompassed by the women who were depicted as lovely yet fierce.27 The voyeuristic romantic tension that places nuns in a precarious position in some comic books (although no female of any profession avoids being objectified if the author so wishes or the visual language lends itself to that) owes much to the nineteenth century. Nuns of the nineteenth century, not unlike their late medieval sisters, were caught between the confused desires of a society that was both highly suspicious of monastics and also titillated by them. As Susan P. Casteras noted, a cloistered nun, as a “symbolic lily of virginity and spirituality, much like her secular sister in real life, was enshrined in an atmosphere of mystery and unattainability that made her simultaneously innocent and repugnant, titillation in her hortus conclusus of femininity and chastity.”28 The art of the era reflects this, using religious pretences to present beautiful young women on the canvas. Simple graphics illustrated the texts of stories of girls escaping corrupt convents, where an anti-Catholic public assumed that priests abused the sisters as in a harem, further compounding the element of fantasy. One of the characteristic plot formulas – that of the “escaped nun” – also has its visual roots in the nineteenth century. Susan M. Griffin suggests that, as part of the anti-Catholic movement, and spurred by Protestant suspicion of Catholic practices in ante-bellum North America,29 stories of escaped nuns were used to vilify monastic institutions. These stories included fabricated and exaggerated testimonies of girls escaping convent life, demonising the convent as a brothel or prison overseen by crooked priests. Medieval sources were held up as earlier evidence of the corruption of Catholic nuns. The escape plots of modern comic books trade heavily on these features: the woman is victimised by the convent environment, abused by the clergy, and in the case of one series, A Certain Magical Index, a nun is literally rescued from a convent by agents of the Anglican Church.30 Again, these nun characters are re-imagined in a stylised medieval environment, engaged in harsh acts of corporeal penance and housed in dark and cold Gothic interiors. Although the modern world exists all around the convent and other characters periodi 26 See James A. Dunn, “Charlotte Dacre and the Feminization of Violence,” Nineteenth-Century Literature 53, no. 3 (Dec 1998): 326. Dacre (ca 1771–1825), who also wrote under the pen name Rosa Matilda, became famous for her novels, most prominently Zofloya (1806), introducing aggressive and violent women. 27 See Moran, “The Art of Looking Dangerously,” 480. 28 Susan P. Casteras, “Virgin Vows: The Early Victorian Artists‘ Portrayal of Nuns and Novices,” Victorian Studies 24, no. 2 (Winter 1981): 182. 29 Susan M. Griffin, “Awful Disclosures: Women’s Evidence in the Escaped Nun’s Tale,” in “The Status of Evidence,” Special issue, PMLA 111, no. 1 (Jan 1996): 93–107. 30 See Kamachi, A Certain Magical Index, vol. 10, chapter 52 “The Greatest Gift,” Aug 22, 2012.
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cally intrude with all the trappings of the twentieth century, in the comic book world, the community of nuns is frozen in an imagined time. In the 1980s, when Umberto Eco famously announced that we were living in a “new Middle Ages,”31 cosmetic medievalism was certainly being embraced in popular culture. Elements of medievalism appeared especially on television, while comic books were reaching an explosive mass circulation and the feminist movement was riding high on power suits and shoulder pads. Female counterparts to male heroes garnered extra attention: Conan had Sonia, Hercules had Xena, Superman flew alongside Wonder Woman, even the Joker, a villain, was accompanied by Harley Quinn, and successful female characters got their own series. In the period of increasing enthusiasm for comic books, that is, in the 1970s and 1980s, there was, incidentally, a development of the scholarly study of medievalism, with several conferences being organised and journals being initiated.32 Gothic images of combative nuns began appearing in comic books at about this time, spreading rapidly both as supporting characters and headliners of their own series. A synthesis of the strong female characters introduced in the 1980s and the concurrent romanticised recycling of Victorian medievalism, bolstered by real academic research, was packaged with all the awe and sentimental idealisation that could be expected of secular, yet thoroughly contemporary artists. The comic book storyline of pugnacious sisters, sisters in arms both spiritually and literally, channels not only the Victorian romance but the medieval paradigms of martyrdom and sacred heroism that the nuns of those idealised times embraced. As Jeffrey Brown points out, in an era of alternative histories and historical fiction, modern comics act as a sort of belated wish fulfilment for the emancipated woman, where females engage in the service of the Church in a physical way previously only available for men, in a direct and radical rejection of claustration and secular feminine norms.33 Such a role validates and even necessitates the medievalist framing of nuns and their storylines in comic books, despite the subsequent anachronism it creates. Having outlined the defining characteristics of nun characters in comics, as well as some of their historical roots, we may wonder what this cultural phenomenon means for the end user. How does this character fit into the current debate about role models and the movement to create desirably strong female characters? Two measures have been created regarding the presence of female characters in comics: the Smurfette Principle and the Bechdel-Wallace Test. The Smurfette Principle, invented by Katha Pollitt, an American essayist and poet, is a tongue-in-cheek summary of female presence in most TV, games, and comic books not aimed specifically at a female 31 Umberto Eco, “The Return of the Middle Ages,” trans. William Weaver, in Travels in Hyperreality: Essays (1986; New York: Mariner Books, 1990), 58. 32 For example, Studies in Medievalism, founded in 1979, stemming from Western Michigan University’s Medieval Institute, itself founded in the 1960s. The General Conference on Medievalism, which later became the International Conference on Medievalism, first met in 1986. In the early 1990s, some prominent contemporary scholars of medievalism, such as Richard Utz and Tom Shippey, received their doctoral titles and entered the academic world. 33 Jeffrey A. Brown, “Gender and the Action Heroine,” 52.
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audience: that is, a group of men is “accented by a lone female, stereotypically defined,” who is usually “a little-sister type, a bunny in a pink dress and hair ribbons.” It takes its name from Smurfette, the character from The Smurfs, whose only defining attribute is that she is female and a romantic foil. She is not even a true Smurf, but originally a crea tion sent by the evil wizard Gargamel to infiltrate the Smurf community.34 The stock nun character, however, really triumphs as a champion of women. Not only does a nun intrinsically reference a community of women, but she is most often accompanied by that community, either ostentatiously or in the background. Moreover, like the heroines of Amazon- or barbarian-themed series, nuns naturally lend themselves to being contextualised with other women, while avoiding being undermined as barbaric or mythical. Nun characters also stand a good chance of avoiding being reduced to romantic foils, and so their stories have to move beyond the traditional twists offered to a “Smurfette” character. This quality is also what allows nun-themed comics, such as Sister Claire, Warrior Nun Areala, Suore Ninja, and episodes within other series, to pass the Bechdel-Wallace test. Although not an absolute measure of feminism, this test proposes an orienting standard. For a work to pass, it must: 1) include at least two women; 2) who have at least one conversation; 3) about something other than a man or men.35 These qualifications may seem relatively easy to meet, but it is surprising how small the number of works is that achieves even this level of gender inclusion. Few popular comic book series would pass the test but all of the comic books with nun protagonists do so safely; it is partly because women themselves are their creators. The contemporary appeal of the nun character was caught in Terry Gross’s interview with the author Ann Patchett, in which she said: I was with nuns the whole time I was growing up and they were my role models, they were career women who didn’t have children. They were women who said I have this thing that I really want to do. I want to devote my life to God and not get married and not have children.36
These are women relieved of worldly expectations, free to focus on their vocation. If they can be attractive and handy with a sword as well, what is there not to like for women, and men, in a world where the choice between marriage and children or claustration is no longer a burden? The nun character, primarily understood as a female trope and vehicle for the exploration of historical themes in the canon of comic book heroines, is hardly a bad thing for the consumers of comic books. To conclude, the essential role that history plays in modern media is undeniable, and yet the representation of historical materials is often altered to suit the needs of a 34 Katha Pollitt, “Hers; The Smurfette Principle,” New York Times, Apr 7, 1991, http://www.nytimes. com/1991/04/07/magazine/hers-the-smurfette-principle.htm. The Smurfs are a community of small blue creatures inhabiting a forest, created by the Belgian artist Pierre Culliford (Peyo) in 1958, which have since become a global franchise in many media. 35 Alison Bechdel, Dykes to Watch Out For #1 (Ithaca: Firebrand Books, 1986), 22. Bechdel, an American cartoonist, credits her friend Liz Wallace as a co-author of the test. 36 Terry Gross, “Patchett: In Bad Relationships, ‘There Comes A Day When You Gotta Go,’” Fresh Air, National Public Radio, aired Jan 23, 2014, transcript at http://www.wbur.org/npr/265228054/patchett-in-badrelationships-there-comes-a-day-when-you-gotta-go.
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writer or artist. In the case of nun comic book characters, the manipulation of their historical elements speaks to the cultural atmosphere in which they are reinterpreted. This phenomenon is, however, hardly a new development, as artists and writers of the past made use of nun characters in the same way. As the Victorian medievalists represented their subjects in an altered and romanticised way, so did late medieval artists in their reinterpretation of earlier saints. For the nun archetype appearing in today’s comic books and graphic novels, the layers of re-presentation have a dynamic history of their own.
Bibliography (c – creator; i – illustrator; w – writer) Alice, Alex (w, i), and Xavier Dorison (i). Le Troisième Testament. Vol. 1–2. Glénat; Grafica, June 1997–Nov 2013. Barbarich, Elena (w, i). Sister Claire. Vol. 1–2. Dec 2013–ongoing as of Sept 2014. http://www. sisterclaire.com/, last accessed Oct 1, 2014. Bechdel, Alison. Dykes to Watch Out For #1. Ithaca: Firebrand Books, 1986. Benitez, Joe (c, i), Malachy Coney (c), Nelson Blake II (i), and Eric Basaldua (i). The Magdalena. Vol. 1–12. Top Cow Productions, Apr 2010–Apr 2011. Bennett, Judith M. “Medievalism and Feminism.” Speculum 68 (1993): 309–31. Bretécher, Claire (w, i). La vie passionnée de Thérèse d’Avila. 1980. Paris: Dargaud, 2007. Brown, Jeffrey A. Dangerous Curves: Action Heroines, Gender, Fetishism, and Popular Culture. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2011. Brown, Jeffrey A. “Gender and the Action Heroine: Hardbodies and the ‘Point of No Return.’” Cinema Journal 35, no. 3 (Spring 1996): 52–71. Butler, Alban. The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints. Dublin: James Duffy, 1866. Casteras, Susan P. “Virgin Vows: The Early Victorian Artists’ Portrayal of Nuns and Novices.” Victorian Studies 24, no. 2 (Winter 1981): 157–84. Chute, Hillary L. Graphic Women. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010. Cohn, Neil. The Visual Language of Comics. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013. Dunn, Ben (c). Warrior Nun Areala. Vol. 3, issues 1–19. Antarctic Press, Dec 1995–Feb 2001. Dunn, James A. “Charlotte Dacre and the Feminization of Violence.” Nineteenth-Century Literature 53, no. 3 (Dec 1998): 307–27. Eco, Umberto. “The Return of the Middle Ages.” Translated by William Weaver. In Travels in Hyperreality: Essays. 1986. New York: Mariner Books, 1990. 59–85. Griffin, Susan M. “Awful Disclosures: Women’s Evidence in the Escaped Nun’s Tale.” In “The Status of Evidence.” Special Issue, PMLA 111, no. 1 (Jan 1996): 93–107. Gross, Terry. “Patchett: In Bad Relationships, ‘There Comes A Day When You Gotta Go.’” Fresh Air. National Public Radio. Aired Jan 23, 2014. Transcript at http://www.wbur.org/ npr/265228054/patchett-in-bad-relationships-there-comes-a-day-when-you-gotta-go. Hirano, Kouta (w, i). Hellsing. Vol. 1–10. Young King OURs; Shonen Gahosha, Sept 1999–Mar 2009. Johnson, Penelope D. Equal in Monastic Profession: Religious Women in Medieval France. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991. Kamachi, Kazuma (w), and Chuya Kogino (i). A Certain Magical Index (Toaru Matjusu no Indekkusu). Vol. 1–14. ASCII Mediaworks, Nov 2007–ongoing as of Oct 2014. Kelly, Henry Ansgar. “A Neo-Revisionist Look at Chaucer’s Nuns.” Chaucer Review 31, no. 2 (1996): 115–32.
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Klein, Sheri. “Breaking the Mold with Humor: Images of Women in the Visual Media.” Art Education 46, no. 5 (Sept 1993): 60–65. Knox, Leslie. “Audacious Nuns: Institutionalizing the Franciscan Order of Saint Clare.” Church History 69, no. 1 (Mar 2000): 41–62. La Rosa, Davide (w), and Vanessa Cardinali (i). Suore Ninja. Vol. 1–6. Star Comics, Mar 14, 2013–Jan 2014. Madrid, Mike. The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines. [N. p.]: Exterminating Angel Press, 2009. McNamara, Jo Ann. Sisters in Arms: Catholic Nuns Through Two Millenia. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998. Moran, Maureen. “The Art of Looking Dangerously: Victorian Images of Martyrdom.” Victorian Literature and Culture 32, no. 2 (2004): 475–93. Pagliarini, Marie. “‘And the Word Was Made Flesh’: Divining the Female Body in NineteenthCentury American and Catholic Culture.” Religion and American Culture 17, no. 2 (Summer 2007): 213–45. Pollitt, Katha. “Hers; The Smurfette Principle.” New York Times, Apr 7, 1991. http://www. nytimes.com/1991/04/07/magazine/hers-the-smurfette-principle.htm. Sheridan, Dave, Robert Crumb, Spain Rodriguez, Jaxon, Roger Brand, and Pat Ryan. Tales from the Leather Nun. Last Gasp Eco-Funnies, 1973. Yagi, Norihiro (w, i). Claymore. Vol. 1–26. Shueisha, Jan 2002–ongoing as of June 2014. Yoshida, Sunao (w), and Thores Shibamoto. Trinity Blood. Vol. 1–2. Kadokawa Shoten, Apr 2001–Nov 2003.
13 The City to Come: On Architectural (Anti-)Communism Martin Škabraha When I look at my city I sense more than what is present to my senses. The city has two dimensions: topical and utopian. The former dimension is material and perceivable by our sensory organs. It is a complex of places and physical objects, some of which are considered representative enough to become symbols of the city, as the city’s visual topoi. To be sure, it might be disputed which particular places and objects should (or should not) represent a city as a whole. To understand such a dispute, observing the topical city is not enough. We must move to another, utopian dimension that has more to do with time than with physical space. At this level, ours is a city to come. The utopian dimension refers to an ideal of society that should be embodied in the city’s spatial and physical arrangement. Our city views are always backed by our worldviews and our worldviews are always connected to our views on history. What we have around us is not simply given; it has come from somewhere and has a potential to evolve into something else. A dispute over a city (or a part of a city), then, is a dispute over society and its future – what is to be overcome and what to be preserved?
Drawing the Skyline In the Czech Republic today there are many examples of disputed development intentions. Cases the wider public is familiar with are usually those of defending a well-known building against demolition, the defence being based on proclaimed historical and cultural significance worthy of special conservation status. However, the case that has been taking place in my home city of Olomouc seems to be – at first sight – of an inverted nature since it is not about fighting for a building but fighting against an intended one. In addition to that, this new building would not replace any existing construction; the site in question is flat and empty now (as of May 2015).1 The site is called Šantovka and at the moment it is possible to visit a brand new shopping centre there called the Šantovka Gallery. Although this received some criticism, too, the matter of the dispute is not the mall but a structure that is supposed to be raised next to it – the Šantovka Tower. The locality, although not right in the centre of Olomouc, lies within the protected zone of the city’s preserved historical area. The zone, as defined by the relevant legal documents, is meant to form a sort of buffer belt around the historical centre – to keep 1 In September 2014 the Olomouc city council authorised a new city plan that set strict limits on high-rise buildings in the areas bordering on the historic centre. This might have been the end of the story but it is not. In a short time, the outraged investor sued the city for breaching his freedom of enterprise and the court of justice ruled that the ban on towers had not been justified well. At the same time, however, the city council has been given a chance to provide a better justification, for which December 2015 is the deadline.
untouched not only particular sights within the conservation area, but also the overall appearance of the city centre from a distance. Olomouc offers visitors some of the most beautiful and significant historical monu ments in the Czech Republic. No wonder that the intention provoked a huge response and as a result, a new local movement emerged: Občané proti Šantovka Tower (Citizens against the Šantovka Tower). Since the controversial building would be nearly eighty metres high, competing with the towers of the town hall and St. Wenceslas’ Cathedral, the city’s skyline – or panorama, to use the word they use – has become the main concern of the activists.2 Since it is not a physical object that can be touched, the panorama is quite a precarious subject of protection. Therefore and above all, the activists had to convince the public of the existence of such a thing. That is why it was necessary to promote a norma tive shape of the Olomouc skyline and demonstrate how the Šantodrap (the Šantovka scyscraper, that is, the “Šantoscraper”) would spoil (scrape) this invaluable entity. They could not simply point at the panorama; in a way, they had to invent it by setting up an appropriate representation of it. Once we are right in a city, we cannot experience its skyline. To be able to do that, we must get out of the city or, at least, the very part which constitutes the best-known view of the city (usually the central part), and look at it – literally – with detachment. This detachment, though, means not only a spatial distance; it is also an ontological gap separating two distinct forms of being – the actual and the represented. But whose perspective is representative? In other words, which part is entitled to stand for the whole? This question is inevitably political because the claim of being rep resentative is a claim for power, although not necessarily in the narrow terms of professional politics. Going to the outskirts, choosing several convenient positions among countless potential vantage points, taking pictures of the city, selecting the most convenient ones, and then showing them to the public as a representation of the typical Olomouc panorama; this is not how “ordinary citizens” might use their city; it is something historians of architecture or preservationists do. But why should they, a very specific group of people, voice the public interest? If we want to stand up for the public, we must persuade citizens, bring them onto our side, and make them part of our party. Such a mission entails training people to perceive an entity that used to be invisible for many of them, which subsequently means changing 2 The “parent company” of CAŠT is the civic association Za krásnou Olomouc (For a beautiful Olomouc). In September 2012 the activists from this club published an open letter to the mayor of Olomouc, Martin Novotný. See “Otevřený dopis primátorovi Martinu Novotnému,” Krásná Olomouc, Sept 12, 2012, http:// www.krasnaolomouc.cz/?p=645. Ever since then they have organised dozens of events, especially lectures and panels on architecture and city planning. My personal notes from these discussions were the key source of information for the three typical views of the Šantovka Tower that I reconstruct below. To be honest with the reader, I must concede that I actively participated in some of the events; I consider some of the activists (from both the preservationists and the radical crowd), who, in this particular case, stand on the same side, my friends and I support their endeavour.
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the way they sense and use their city. But making people take sides and bringing a new representation of the whole are typical features of politics.
The Clash of Utopias What does Olomouc look like? This is no trivial question. When we try to produce an authentic image of the city we find ourselves thinking about what the city essentially is. Every depiction is determined by a specific perspective, a particular point of view which shows something quite well, while distorting or even overshadowing something else. But, to be sure, this dialectics of showing and shading is precisely what we want and appreciate, since we are looking not for a fully transparent picture, but for a picture that is representative. A picture is representative when it demonstrates not simply what the represented is, but also what it should be. Together with its actual state of being, a city is also a process of becoming – even without any deliberate intervention, the march of time is changing the city’s substance incessantly. The city is always to (be)come. A representative picture demonstrates what the represented would become if it conformed to the utopia contained in the chosen perspective. It indicates what we want to preserve and develop, and what is to be overcome, reformed, or eliminated. What are the utopias determining views of the Olomouc panorama? The crucial position here is conservative. That is natural since the main agenda of the activists was closely associated with preservationist principles. From this perspective, the panorama demonstrates the right order of values, putting the spiritual above the material and the public (municipal, national) above the private. The former general manager of the Olomouc Museum of Art, Pavel Zatloukal, spoke literally of “the panorama and its hierarchy,”3 while the recognised historian of architecture Rostislav Švácha contended on several occasions that only a public building, not a private one, is entitled to become a city’s landmark.4 Jakub Potůček then joined both by praising “the unchanging hierarchy” of historical towers.5 Visualisations produced by the preservationists highlighted the historical identity of Olomouc, governed by the towers of the main Olomouc churches and accompanied by the tower of the city hall. One such visualisation shows Olomouc from such a vantage point, suggestively promoting this kind of historically given essence of the city. An informational leaflet released by Občané proti Šantovka Tower is also very instructive in this regard since it repeatedly compares the height and the volume of Šantodrap 3 Pavel Zatloukal, “Několik poznámek k Šantovka Tower a pojednání Miloše Mlčáka” [Some remarks on the Šantovka Tower and Miloš Mlčák’s treatise], Krásná Olomouc, Nov 12, 2013, http://www.krasnaolomouc. cz/?p=2206. Trans. Martin Škabraha. 4 See, for example, a video recording on the association’s YouTube channel: “Tisková konference k aktuálnímu vývoji problematiky výškových staveb v Olomouci” [A press conference on the current development of the problems of high-rise buildings in Olomouc], Za krásnou Olomouc, Dec 20, 2012, https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=UZ1lcBjgADw. 5 Jakub Potůček, “The Šantovka Tower aneb Jak mrakodrapy ničí historická města” [The Šantovka Tower, or How skyscrapers destroy historical cities], Vesmír, May 2013: 310. Also accessible at http://casopis.vesmir. cz/clanek/the-santovka-tower. Trans. Martin Škabraha.
Martin Škabraha A panoramic view of Olomouc favoured by preservationists, suggesting “the unchanging hieararchy” of values – churches and the city hall towering over the city.
to other significant buildings as well as to its immediate surroundings, suggesting that the tower would be simply too big, too conspicuous, and, therefore, offensive, defying the panorama’s hierarchy.6 Another way of demonstrating the tower’s inappropriateness is to employ a some what different view of the Olomouc panorama (or part of it); in this case the view is marked by the already-existing high-rise building of the BEA centre, which is not located within the protective zone of the conservation area (and therefore is not controversial in legal terms); however, it lies at its very edge and preservationists consider it to have definitely spoiled the view of the historical centre. The Šantovka Tower would be even closer to the centre and several metres higher. Some defenders of the tower (to whom I pay more attention below) would reply that we cannot conserve the city forever and, after all, the panorama is rather an abstract entity and the historical jewels in the centre would certainly not be spoiled by a distant building, invisible from the conservation area itself. Regarding this, a video was released by the Palacký University specialist Vít Voženílek, demonstrating that the tower would be visible from the Lower Square, rising from behind the consistent bloc of the roofs of historical houses that enclose the square.7 But the conservatives do not only defend an appropriate hierarchy of values (the skyline as a line not to be crossed, lest we succumb to hubris); they also accentuate the uniqueness and distinctiveness of Olomouc. The unmistakable silhouette of Olomouc is, for them, a product of the ages of evolution and history; powers of human as well as geological development have formed here a special genius loci against which the global style of the Šantovka Tower (designed by the London studio Benoy) represents uniform6 See “Proč říct NE: Argumenty” [Why say NO: Arguments], Krásná Olomouc, [n. d.], http://www. krasnaolomouc.cz/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/proc_rict_ne_3M_v01.pdf. 7 See Ondřej Zuntych, “Jak bude vidět Šantovka Tower? Ukazuje to video z univerzity” [How visible would the Šantovka Tower be? A video from the University reveals this], Olomoucký deník, Jan 24, 2014, http://olomoucky.denik.cz/zpravy_region/jak-bude-videt-santovka-tower-ukazuje-to-toto-videouniverzity-20140123.html. The Lower Square belongs to the city’s preserved historical area, although its Plague Column is not of such importance as the UNESCO site of the Holy Trinity Column on the neighbouring Upper Square.
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175 The Olomouc panorama “spoiled” by the already existing high-rise building
ity. Švácha warned that “all skyscrapers look the same,” expressing concern that Olomouc will lose its identity should it go further in this direction.8 It seems no accident that a logo bearing the city’s silhouette accompanied by the sign “My ♥ beats for. . .” has become the symbol of the movement against the Šantovka Tower. The hierarchy of values is completed by an organic union of the place and its inhabitants, who, by succumbing to the economic rationality of exchange value, would lose their authentic identity as a punishment for their hubris. Side by side with the conservatives stand the followers of a radically different utopia. Their position can be labelled as anti-capitalist, and although they share with the conservatives some of their concerns, namely, unscrupulous private interests putting the historical heritage in danger, they do not do so for local patriotic motives. Before the cause of the Šantovka Tower emerged, these people had participated in the Occupy Olomouc movement, a left-wing enterprise founded by the Czech artist Milan Kohout after his return from Boston, where he spent more then twenty years as an exile expelled from Czechoslovakia by the Communist regime.9 At the time the Šantovka issue reached its climax (the demonstration in October 2013),10 Kohout was not staying in Olomouc any more – he now lives in Plzeň (Pilsen), his home city – and the movement had lost its energy; after all, it consisted of only a small number of individuals. Šantodrap, then, was a good opportunity to take it into the streets again. For the anti-capitalist activists, of course, this mission was not aimed at defending the superiority of spiritual over materialist values. For them, the skyline represented one of the last lines of defence against neoliberal economic globalisation. To allow the 8 Rostislav Švácha, “Olomouc – město mrakodrapů?” [Olomouc – a city of skyscrapers?], Krásná Olomouc, June 27, 2014, http://www.krasnaolomouc.cz/?p=2615. Trans. Martin Škabraha. 9 For Milan Kohout’s current works see his website at http://www.mobius.org/blog/11. 10 According to local media, approximately four hundred people took part in the protest. The event was influenced by the upcoming parliamentary election; a significant slogan repeatedly chanted by the participants proclaimed: Kdo se k mrakodrapu hlásí, nedostane naše hlasy! (Nobody who advocates the skyscraper will win our votes!) See Veronika Kolesárová, “VIDEO: Stovky Olomoučanů protestovaly proti Šantovka Tower” [VIDEO: Hundreds of inhabitants of Olomouc protested against the Šantovka Tower], Olomoucký deník, Oct 22, 2013, http://olomoucky.denik.cz/zpravy_region/mrakodrapu-zmar-stovky-lidiprotestovaly-proti-santovka-tower-20131022.html.
line to be broken would mean that another as yet uncommodified area would be lost to neo-colonial forces. From this perspective, how tall the building is and what it looks like count for less than who its owner is. The investor is one of those who cashed in on the post-Communist economic transformation. On top of that, the Šantovka area was not always as empty as the lot appointed for the tower is today. Before the new shopping mall was built, the national company MILO, producing soap and hydrogenated fats, was located there before 1989. After the Velvet Revolution, the firm was privatised, changed owners several times, and collapsed, perhaps because of “tunnelling” (that is, funds being siphoned off); many believe that the investor in both the Šantovka Gallery and the Šantovka Tower is one of those who made their fortune through these processes.11 Under these circumstances, the tower would be a monument to the new ruling class. But the tower has its defenders, too, and they also have their utopia. This is the glob alist utopia of modernisation and free enterprise that causes economic growth, in this case growth in the literal sense of the word. The (sky)line is to be broken through to get out of underdevelopment and a provincial mentality, to enter the big world. According to this view, the global style of the Šantovka Tower would not spoil the historical sites that attract many foreign visitors to Olomouc; on the contrary, the panorama and, figuratively, the identity of the city would be completed by the new building,12 a fusion that is expressed by the very name, which combines a general English term and an idiosyncratic local name. It is supposed that global capitalism can integrate all places and cultures into its economy and give them equal opportunities to freely sell (out?) their respective qualities. What we have here is a utopia of capitalism without contradictions.
The Invisible Hand of History There is an epic story behind the globalist utopia. In the post-Communist climate, there is always a lingering memory of the old regime. This memory takes various forms, including physical traces of the regime. Such objects and places are for many people a materalised dystopia – a remnant of a world that is to be remembered only to be prevented from happening again. Shortly after the opening of the Šantovka Gallery shopping mall, a small exhibition was mounted in its interior, showing a series of photographs. The images captured the very last days of the former national company’s buildings, ruined by the course of pri11 The fact is that some of Richard Morávek’s close business partners were provably associated with commercial and tax frauds and his mother escaped justice only as a result of a controversial pardon by the (then) president Václav Klaus. See Jaroslav Kmenta, “Čtyři Mrázkovi spolupracovníci a přátelé dostali prezidentskou milost” [Four of Mrázek’s collaborators and friends pardoned by the President], iDnes.cz, Jan 13, 2010, http://zpravy.idnes.cz/ctyri-mrazkovi-spolupracovnici-a-pratele-dostali-prezidentskoumilost-1ox-/domaci.aspx?c=A100112_202207_domaci_vel. 12 According to Švácha’s research into the development of housing in the socialist era (presented during his lecture at the Olomouc Museum of Art on May 13, 2015), this argument was first used by Communist city planners.
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vatisation and by a flood. The impression the photos were supposed to leave, I imagine, was a demonstration of how beneficial the new building was, since it replaced ugly ruins invaded by uncultivated flora and even some unwanted human fauna. In terms of the post-Communist condition, two other pictures are especially revealing. One presents (among other printed materials which are hard to identify) a copy of the collective agreement of the MILO state company that was left in a deserted building at the dawn of a political regime that would challenge the authority of trade unions in the name of competitiveness on global markets. In the other photograph, someone’s hand is pulling out of the trash a poster inviting guests to a children’s Saint Nicholas’ Day party organised by the ROH (Revoluční odborové hnutí – the Revolutionary Trade Union Movement), one of the pillars of the Communist regime. It was as if the (in)visible hand of the market was clearing the residues of the bygone totalitarian dystopia to make way for the new brave world of the global free trade economy. Remembering Communism as a warning from the past that could return is a common part of the Czech public debate, and the case of the Šantovka Tower was no exception. The councilman Jiří Martinák, a member of ODS (Občanská demokratická strana – the Civic Democratic Party), which supports the building, criticised the activists for restricting private enterprise, stressing that “any office should intervene into citizens’ lives only when a law requires so or in the event of the law being broken. On the contrary, the idea that a plan to carry out construction . . . should be turned down by the authorities only because of pressure from a group of citizens reminds me of the times before 1989.”13
Your House is Our City Before coming to a conclusion, I will make a detour to Prague, where several cases of defending significant buildings against demolition have emerged. Since my focus is also on employing the memory of Communism in public debate, I will look briefly at one of these – the one concerning a hotel that, like the city, is called Praha (Prague). The hotel was built between 1975 and 1981 as a holiday resort for prominent members of the Communist Party. As a result of its generous funding, the project boasted monumental architecture and outstanding interior decoration. After 1989 it was privatised and changed owners several times. At the end of this stands the richest man in the Czech Republic, Petr Kellner, who finally decided to pull it down, which was done in June 2014. More than about a clash of utopias, this case was about averting dystopia. The protesting activists invented the slogan Vekslák bourá Prahu (A moneychanger is demolishing Prague), which is loaded with political symbolism. First of all, playing with the hotel’s name, they use it as a representative of the whole city in the post-Communist era. The representation, after all, is based on synecdoche, for it works as pars pro toto. This was nothing new: activists used the synecdoche principle earlier when protesting against the 13 Jiří Martinák, “Město je živý organismus a musí se vyvíjet” [A city is a living organism and needs to develop], Radniční listy [The city council’s newsletter], Dec 17, 2013, http://www.olomouc.eu/aktualniinformace/aktuality/15201. Trans. Martin Škabraha.
demolition of the house no. 47 on Václavské náměstí (Wenceslas Square); addressing its private owner, they proclaimed Váš dům je naše město (Your house is our city).14 It is very significant that the word vekslák is used to characterise Kellner. Before 1989, this colloquial expression referred to a person who illegally bought and sold foreign convertible currencies and products smuggled from the West. As used in the slogan, it is a very ambivalent symbol. On the one hand, a vekslák was a product of normalisation (the post-1969 period of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia). Therefore, the persistent influence and power of people with this kind of personal history indicates we still have not broken away from the past, at least not consistently enough. On the other hand, a vekslák was somebody who brought a capitalist mentality into “real socialism,” helping to articulate its loss of legitimacy. Therefore, in a way, a vekslák connects the worst of both eras, “real socialism” and “real capitalism.” Significantly, the term is derived from the German word Wechsel, which means change, as well as a bill of exchange. Following this track, we can see a vekslák as somebody who subordinates all values to exchange value, and if it is profitable he even changes one political regime for another. He symbolises the dark side of modernity, the bestia triumphans, which melts all that is valuable in the heat of the financial markets. For many, the demolition of the Hotel Praha was a sign of the victory of those sinister creatures. Defending the considerable aesthetic value of the hotel, Ladislav Zikmund-Lender wrote: “From the Hanspaulka hillside, the enlarging chasm of the demolished central part . . . of the building tells the inhabitants of Prague what some people are allowed to do. . . . For someone who’s got money and a sufficient network of connections, everything is allowed.”15 Earlier in the article Zikmund-Lender writes: “The Klaus regime has left us with something else – in fact, the spirit of a political mafia-like environment excluded the participation of cultural elites from its central decision making. Thus it has enabled the political and economic elites to make an easy deal, offering them values to be shared: a lack of culture and coarseness.”16 A dystopia of the hegemony of moneychangers over cultural elites is impending and the chasm cutting through the mass of the demolished hotel resembles the rupture in the skyline of Olomouc. Both substantiate the disrupted foundations of civil(ised) society. Nevertheless, the Prague demolition also had its defenders, who acted out another dystopia – that of the return of the socialist regime; they protested against conserva14 See “Proč demonstrujeme? Informační leták” [What are we demonstrating against? An informational leaflet], Klub Za starou Prahu [Club for the Old Prague], July 24, 2013, http://www.zastarouprahu.cz/ aktuality/101-proc-demonstrujeme-informacni-letak. According to the activists, there is an expert consensus that the house, built at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, has exceptional architectural and historical value. Besides, they claimed that the process of the official approval of the demolition violated law. In this case the protests proved to be successful and the house survived. 15 Ladislav Zikmund-Lender, “Requiem za hotel” [Requiem for a hotel], Deník Referendum, Apr 8, 2014, http://denikreferendum.cz/clanek/17772-requiem-za-hotel. Trans. Martin Škabraha. 16 Zikmund-Lender, “Requiem za hotel.” Trans. Martin Škabraha. A reference to the former Czech Prime Minister and ex-President Václav Klaus, who has become a symbol of the “tunnellers’” branch of the postCommunist economic transformation, a cynical kind of politics of which the main purpose was to cover financial interests; a kind of politics based on mafia-like structures associated with the sponsorship of political parties, especially ODS (led by Klaus before his presidency).
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tionists’ efforts by wearing masks of Soviet and Czechoslovak Communist leaders and displaying slogans such as Soudruzi, toť naše snaha, ubráníme hotel Praha! (Dear comrades, stand up and cry, don’t let the Hotel Praha die!).17 The dystopia they wanted to prevent is the return of a once-defeated history: the old regime and its perverse values, among which disrespect for economic (free-market) rationality had a central place. Their crucial argument was that the hotel makes no profit. Had it gained the status of a national cultural monument (as the other side of the dispute demanded), all Czech taxpayers would have had to compensate for its losses, which was a typical socialist measure. In addition to that, it would breach the private owner’s right to treat his property as he likes.
The Spectre Is Not Dead Likening preservation activists to Communists is definitely biased. But is there not a grain of truth to it? Be it the controversial construction or the controversial demolition, the same line of dispute seems to emerge in both the cases that I briefly analysed here. On one side, there is the rhetoric of privatisation and deregulation, free enterprise and property rights, on the other we hear about regulation (historical preservation, height zoning) and the public interest. On both sides, the free market and urban planning stand against each other. Such a dispute does not only call for a political “coming out” on the right-left scale. In the Czech Republic and, indeed, among the Czech public, these issues are inevitably framed by the post-Communist condition. The public debate is burdened with anti Communism, and since regulation and political intervention into private actions were typical features of the old regime, such a comparison is easy and not completely illegitimate to make. Thus, the defence of the architectural legacy against development imperatives is not primarily a matter of history that everybody comprehends in the same way; it is a part of the struggle over the present of the modern Czech state and its foundations. The preamble of the act that established the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes names among the crimes of the Communist regime “replacement of a functioning market economy with directive control” and “destruction of the traditional principles of proprietary rights.”18 Such words suggest that before the demonised socialist regime something like a spontaneous and self-regulating social order existed. But in what sense was that market economy functional if it led to the Great Depression in 1929? In what sense was capitalism based on traditional property rights if its rise was associated with the liquidation of commons and directively orchestrated privatisation (enclosures of 17 According to a commentary on the Facebook profile of the defenders of the hotel, the individuals behind the masks are students of the Open Gate school, financed by Petr Kellner, who allegedly hired them for that intervention. See https://www.facebook.com/BuranBouraPrahu/photos/a.207885069335591.107374 1829.207789536011811/208981985892566/?type=1&theater. 18 “Act of 8 June 2007 on the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes and the Security Services Archive, and on Amendments to Some Acts,” Ústav pro studium totalitních režimů, June 8, 2007. http://www.ustrcr. cz/data/pdf/normy/act181-2007.pdf.
open fields), with the help of the repressive state apparatus?19 That looks more like a rupture than historical continuity. Anti-Communism, I believe, is a defence against a much more powerful threat than that represented by the well-known folk opinion that not everything was wrong in the socialist state, as there were some elements of social security, such as the right to work. Communism, first of all, grew out of the thesis that capitalist “relations of production,” to use Karl Marx’s term, are not natural, spontaneous, or definitive. Communists historicised and politicised those relations and by expropriation and nationalisation they refused to accept the actually existing forms of property as the last word of history. In a hidden form, the act of nationalisation is also inscribed in the very foundations of the present regime. This looks like a paradox only at first sight. The post-198920 priva tisation, one of the new forms of enclosure, was only possible because of the fact that the means of production were in state ownership. Only under such circumstances could property be subject to political decision making. Whatever ideological campaign was launched against public ownership or state regulation, the truth is that political representation would not be entitled to manage the national restoration of capitalism if it had not first accepted the legal status of nationalised property. There was no general consensus on the best way “back to Europe” (meaning the West). The way that prevailed in the end – that is, privatisation based on a system of vouchers – seemed to many to be the best thing that could be done for the benefit of all, with property that – at the moment of the decision – belonged to all. The people were the only owner here and politicians were supposed to act in their interest. This implied that the private ownership of the means of production is only legitimate when it promises and delivers a general profit, even for the less well-off. The “Communist” beginning of contemporary Czech capitalism, the moment of the supremacy of politics over proprietary relations and the forms of production, is like the ghost of the murdered father in Hamlet. The spectre is still haunting us, and coming in new personifications.
19 A classic account of the rise of capitalism by Karl Polanyi considers enclosures of open fields in early modern England as beneficial in terms of general economic wealth but detrimental in terms of social coherence and justice: “Enclosures have appropriately been called a revolution of the rich against the poor. The lords and nobles were upsetting the social order, breaking down ancient law and custom, sometimes by means of violence, often by pressure and intimidation. They were literally robbing the poor of their share in the common . . .” Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time (1944; Boston: Beacon Press, 2002), 35. Trans. Martin Škabraha. Today, the concept of enclosures is often used metaphorically by critics of neoliberal policies in connection with various forms of transformation of public goods into profit-making assets controlled by business corporations, for example, in David Bollier’s book Think Like a Commoner: A Short Introduction to the Life of the Commons (Gabriola Island, BC: New Society, 2014). 20 The end of Communism in Czechoslovakia is mostly associated with November 17, 1989, when a major student demonstration took place in Prague at Národní třída (National Avenue). It was violently dispersed by the police and the subsequent massive public protests led to a general strike one week later.
The City to Come
The Right to the City A follow-up to international social forums, the World Charter for the Right to the City was compiled in 2004–2005. Obviously (though not explicitly) inspired by the ideas of the Marxist thinkers Henri Lefevbre and David Harvey, the charter defines a city as “a culturally rich and diversified collective space that pertains to all of its inhabitants.”21 Social rights are accentuated, but the charter also includes rights of participation in decision-making processes. What is crucial here is the verb “to pertain.” It is related to ownership, but means a claim that is different from legally binding proprietary rights. It means a right that results not from nominal ownership but from collective usage that is an inevitable consequence of our corporeality – we always live in space, and a space is always shared. Whatever enclosures in the name of private property may come to our cities, all of us should be entitled to have a say in making decisions on what the environment we share should look like. This claim cannot be sufficiently met by an official concern for the public interest. From the legal point of view, a development plan can be satisfactory, but it still might lack an adequate legitimacy. Then some citizens feel obliged to protest: Tady není developerovo! (This does not belong to the developer!)22 They claim, as I wrote earlier, “your house is our city.” No court of justice would approve such a proprietary right; it must be realised by political means and fought for in the struggle of competing worldviews.
Bibliography “Act of 8 June 2007 on the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes and the Security Services Archive, and on Amendments to Some Acts.” Ústav pro studium totalitních režimů, June 8, 2007. http://www.ustrcr.cz/data/pdf/normy/act181-2007.pdf. Bollier, David. Think Like a Commoner: A Short Introduction to the Life of the Commons. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society, 2014. Kmenta, Jaroslav. “Čtyři Mrázkovi spolupracovníci a přátelé dostali prezidentskou milost.” iDnes.cz, Jan 13, 2010. http://zpravy.idnes.cz/ctyri-mrazkovi-spolupracovnici-a-prateledostali-prezidentskou-milost-1ox-/domaci.aspx?c=A100112_202207_domaci_vel. Kolesárová, Veronika. “VIDEO: Stovky Olomoučanů protestovaly proti Šantovka Tower.” Olomoucký deník, Oct 22, 2013. http://olomoucky.denik.cz/zpravy_region/mrakodrapuzmar-stovky-lidi-protestovaly-proti-santovka-tower-20131022.html. Martinák, Jiří. “Město je živý organismus a musí se vyvíjet.” Radniční listy, Dec 17, 2013. http://www.olomouc.eu/aktualni-informace/aktuality/15201. “Otevřený dopis primátorovi Martinu Novotnému.” Krásná Olomouc, Sept 12, 2012. http://www.krasnaolomouc.cz/?p=645. Polanyi, Karl. The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time. 1944. Boston: Beacon Press, 2002. Potůček, Jakub. “The Šantovka Tower aneb Jak mrakodrapy ničí historická města.” Vesmír, May 2013: 310–12.
21 See Article 1.3 of “World Charter for the Right to the City,” Urban Re/Investors, 2005, http://www.urbanreinventors.net/3/wsf.pdf. 22 Tady není developerovo! is the main slogan of a very successful activity aimed at the preservation of an old railway station for freight in the Prague district of Žižkov.
“Proč demonstrujeme? Informační leták.” Klub Za starou Prahu, July 24, 2013. http://www.zastarouprahu.cz/aktuality/101-proc-demonstrujeme-informacni-letak. “Proč říct NE: Argumenty.” Krásná Olomouc, [n. d.]. http://www.krasnaolomouc.cz/wpcontent/uploads/2013/10/proc_rict_ne_3M_v01.pdf. Švácha, Rostislav. “Olomouc – město mrakodrapů?” Krásná Olomouc, June 27, 2014. http://www.krasnaolomouc.cz/?p=2615. “Tisková konference k aktuálnímu vývoji problematiky výškových staveb v Olomouci.” Za krásnou Olomouc, Dec 20, 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZ1lcBjgADw. “World Charter for the Right to the City.” Urban Re/Investors, 2005. http://www.urbanreinventors.net/3/wsf.pdf. Zatloukal, Pavel. “Několik poznámek k Šantovka Tower a pojednání Miloše Mlčáka.” Krásná Olomouc, Nov 12, 2013. http://www.krasnaolomouc.cz/?p=2206. Zikmund-Lender, Ladislav. “Requiem za hotel.” Deník Referendum, Apr 8, 2014, http://denikreferendum.cz/clanek/17772-requiem-za-hotel. Zuntych, Ondřej. “Jak bude vidět Šantovka Tower? Ukazuje to video z univerzity.” Olomoucký deník, Jan 24, 2014. http://olomoucky.denik.cz/zpravy_region/jak-bude-videt-santovkatower-ukazuje-to-toto-video-univerzity-20140123.html.
Authors Frank Ankersmit is Emeritus Professor of Intellectual History and Historical Theory at the University of Groningen. His main scholarly interests are in the philosophy of history, contemporary historiography, and historical methodology; his main contributions focus on the concepts of narrative, metaphor, and representation. Of his thirteen scholarly books his most recent is Meaning, Truth, and Reference in Historical Representation (2012). He has published three volumes – Aesthetic Politics: Political Philosophy beyond Fact and Value (1997), Historical Representation (2001), and Political Representation (2002) – in the Stanford University Press series The Cultural Memory in the Present. In 1986 he was elected to the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Marcel Arbeit is Professor at the Department of English and American Studies at Palacký University Olomouc, Czech Republic. His main fields of research are contemporary southern literature and Canadian cinema. He is the author of a monograph on the novels of Fred Chappell and Cormac McCarthy published in 2006 (in Czech) and the main editor of the three-volume Bibliography of American Literature in Czech Translation (2000). His recent publications focus on Doris Betts, Fred Chappell, Harry Crews, Richard Ford, Lewis Nordan, Flannery O’Connor, Chris Offutt, and Elizabeth Spencer; he co-edited the Mississippi Quarterly special issue on Lewis Nordan (2007, with Thomas Ærvold Bjerre) and The (Un)Popular South (2011, with M. Thomas Inge). Between 2005 and 2013 he was the President of the Czech and Slovak Association for American Studies. He is the editor-in-chief of the Moravian Journal of Literature and Film. Pavel Bednařík is a film critic, lecturer, dramaturgist, and curator. He works at Palacký University Olomouc and is also a Ph.D. student at the Centre for Audiovisual Studies at the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (FAMU), focused on models of film education in Europe and their implementation in the Czech Republic. He has cooperated with a wide range of film festivals (the Summer Film School in Uherské Hradiště, the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Academia Film Olomouc, Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival). His main fields of study are documentary film, the history of Czech cinema, film education and audiovisual literacy, and ideology in film. Ian Christie is a film and media historian, curator, and broadcaster. He has written and edited books on Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, Martin Scorsese, Terry Gilliam, and Russian cinema, created a BBC television project on early film, The Last Machine, and contributed to exhibitions ranging from Film as Film (Hayward, 1979) to Modernism: Designing a New World (V&A, 2006). In 2006 he was Slade Professor of Fine Art at Cambridge University, with a series of lectures entitled “The Cinema Has Not Yet Been Invented.” He is a Fellow of the British Academy, Professor of Film and Media History at Birkbeck College, director of the London Screen Study Collection, and a past president of Europa Cinemas. His recent publications include The Art of Film: John Box and Production
Design (2009) and the edited collection Audiences (2012), as well as articles and chapters on Patrick Keiller, John Smith, early film copyright, ancient-world spectacles, and trick films and stereoscopy. Martin Elbel is Assistant Professor in Early Modern History at Palacký University Olomouc. After getting his Ph.D. in 1999, he continued his research at the Warburg Institute, the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities in Edinburgh, and the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in Wassenaar. His main field of interest is early modern European culture, especially religion, rituals, and visual culture. He is currently writing a monograph on the interaction between a Franciscan friary and the urban community in early modern Olomouc. Andrea Hanáčková is a freelance documentarist and scriptwriter of Czech Radio, working as a research assistant at the Department of Theatre and Film Studies at Palacký University Olomouc. Her professional interests include the radio documentary, feature and radio drama, theatre theory, stage theory, and radio adaptation. Tomáš Jirsa is a literary theorist and translator, interested primarily in the relationship between visuality and literature, affective operations in art, French post-structuralism, and deconstruction. In 2012 he received his Ph.D. from Charles University in Prague and published his Ph.D. thesis Physiognomy of Writing: In the Folds of Literary Ornament. He is a teacher and postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Czech and Comparative Literature at Charles University in Prague, while also working at the Department of Theatre, Film, and Media Studies at Palacký University Olomouc. Along with translations from French in the fields of philosophy, aesthetics, psychiatry, and film history, he also translates French films. Jakub Korda is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Theatre and Film Studies at Palacký University in Olomouc. His long-term focus is on television studies; he has published a book on Czech TV crime series after 1989. In recent years, he has been involved in the organisation of the Olomouc international festival of science documentary films, Academia Film Olomouc, and teaches seminars on management, culture, and festival production. Jiří Lach is Professor of History at the Department of Politics and European Studies at Faculty of Arts, Palacký University Olomouc. He focuses on contemporary history, the political history of the 20th century, and historiography. He has published three books (on the Czech historians Josef Šusta and Josef Borovička) and a number of articles ranging from historiographical topics to political partisanship in Central Europe. Recently, he has concentrated on the perception of historical scholarship by different audiences and on selected personalities of international historiography (Eric Hobsbawm, Tony Judt). He was a Fulbright Scholar at the United States Military Academy at West Point,
NY, in 2003 and DAAD professor at Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany, in 2008–2009. He has been serving as the dean of the Faculty of Arts at Palacký University Olomouc since 2010. Laura Mulvey studied history at St. Hilda’s College, Oxford University, and came to prominence in the early 1970s as a film theorist, writing for periodicals such as Spare Rib, Seven Days, and Screen. Her early critical work, particularly the 1975 essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” helped establish feminist film theory as a legitimate field of study. Between 1974 and 1982 she co-wrote and co-directed with her husband, Peter Wollen, six films, including Riddles of the Sphinx (1977), and she has since collaborated with the Canadian artist Mark Lewis on further films, including Disgraced Monuments (1996) and 23rd August 2008 (2013). Her books include Visual and Other Pleasures (1989), Citizen Kane (1992), Fetishism and Curiosity (1996), and Death 24x a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image (2005). Currently Professor of Film and Media Studies at Birkbeck College, she is a Fellow of the British Academy. Roger Odin is Emeritus Professor of Communication and was the Head of the Institute of Film and Audiovisual Research at the University of Paris III Sorbonne-Nouvelle from 1983 until 2004. A communication theorist, he has written or edited several books, including Cinéma et production de sens (1990), Le film de famille (1995), L’âge d’or du cinéma documentaire: Europe années 50 (2 vols., 1997), De la fiction (2000), and Les espaces de communication (2011). Since 2007, he has been involved in two new fields of research, “City, Media, and Identities” and “Cinema and the Mobile Phone,” and his essay “Spectator, Film and the Mobile Phone” appeared in Audiences: Defining and Researching Screen Entertainment Reception, edited by Ian Christie (2012). Daniel Pick, Professor of History and a psychoanalyst, is leading a research group at Birkbeck College exploring the history of the human sciences and “psy” professions during the Cold War. He currently holds a Senior Investigator grant from the Wellcome Trust for this project, entitled “‘Hidden Persuaders’: Brainwashing, Culture, Clinical Knowledge and the Cold War Human Sciences, c. 1950–1990.” He has written features and contributed to a variety of radio and television programmes and online discussions; he has also presented several radio documentaries for the BBC and was the series consultant to the 25-part BBC Radio 4 series “In Search of Ourselves” (2014). He has written on diverse topics in nineteenth- and twentieth-century, as well as contemporary cultural and intellectual history, including debates on evolutionary theory, the idea of degeneration, eugenics, social Darwinism, Victorian cultural attitudes to crime and madness, psychoanalytic thoughts on war and militarism, dreams, the myth of Svengali, the cult of Garibaldi, Italian nationalism, the literary representation of Rome, the fear of brainwashing, methodological problems associated with psycho-biography, and the application of psychoanalytic thought to history. His most recent books are The Pursuit of the Nazi Mind: Hitler, Hess, and the Analysts (2012) and Psychoanalysis: A Very Short Introduction (2015).
A co-edited volume, Psychoanalysis in the Age of Totalitarianism (with Matt ffytche), will appear in 2016. Radmila Švaříčková Slabáková received her Ph.D. in modern history from Université Pierre-Mendès-France in Grenoble. Currently she is an Associate Professor at the Department of History at Palacký University Olomouc. Her research focuses on nobility in the modern period, contemporary historiography, memory, family, gender, and emotions. She is the author of two books: one explores the family strategies of the aristocracy in Central Europe in the nineteenth century, the other concentrates on the myth of nobility in Czech history. She has examined the intersections of gender, emotions, and family relations in the broader social network in numerous articles and conference presentations. Her current book project focuses on family memory and the inter-generational transmission of identities. Elizabeth A. Woock is a Ph.D. candidate in history at Palacký University Olomouc. She received a B.A. in medieval studies from Smith College, MA, and completed graduate studies in Latin and History at Palacký University. Her research focuses on monastic issues of the thirteenth century, primarily mendicant orders in Central Europe. Currently, she is also researching the portrayal of medieval monastic themes in graphic arts from the Victorian era to the present.
Index Abbruzzese, Salvatore 96 Abrams, Lynn 127 Adair, John 72 Adams, Clarence 55 Adorno, Theodor W. 58–60, 68 Alice, Alex 163 Allen, Lewis 61 Althusser, Louis 40 Altman, Mark A. 45 Anderson, Benedict 22 Andrić, Stanko 97 Ankersmit, Frank 9, 11, 102, 107, 108, 109, 146, 148–52, 154–56 Arc, Joan of 163, 164 Ariès, Philippe 192 Assisi, Francis of 91–92, 94–96 Assmann, Aleida 122–23 Augé, Marc 76 Aumont, Jacques 101
Bachelard, Gaston 34 Bagnoregio, Bonaventure of 92 Baker, Barbara A. 155 Balashov, Andrei 103 Balchin, Nigel 61 Bal, Mieke 115 Barks, Carl 162 Barthes, Roland 31, 39, 73 Bauer, Hermann 106 Bechdel, Alison 168 Becker, Wolfgang 23 Beck, Peter J. 20 Bejšáková, Sandra 138 Bell, Daniel 52
Bely, Andrei 110 Beneš, Edvard 127 Benitez, Joe 163 Bennett, Judith M. 160 Bennett, Tony 40 Benson, Raymond 43 Berger, Stefan 22 Bergman, Ingmar 102, 110–111 Bernini, Gian Lorenzo 115 Bílek, Petr A. 41 Bjerre, Thomas Ærvold 145 Bolzoni, Lina 96 Bondebjerg, Ib 75 Bond, Michael 57 Boon, Timothy 79 Bourgeois, Louise 115 Boverio, Zacharia 95 Boyd, Brian 104 Bracton, Henry de 188 Brand, Roger 161 Branžovský, Josef 134–35 Bretécher, Claire 159 Breton, Jules 29 Brickner, Richard M. 59 Broccoli, Albert 39, 43–44 Broccoli, Barbara 39, 43–44 Brooke, Rosalind B. 97 Brooks, Gwendolyn 146 Brosnan, Pierce 46 Brown, Jeffrey 167 Brown, Jeffrey A. 160, 161 Bryant, Carolyn 143–44, 155 Bryant, Roy 143–44, 149 Burckhardt, Jacob 187 Burgess, Guy 51 Burke, Peter 16
Burk, Kathleen 14, 15 Burr, David 92 Butler, Alban 164
Calatrava, Santiago 73 Caldwell, John 83 Calvino, Italo 72 Cameron, Donald Ewen 57 Campbell, Bebe Moore 146 Campbell, Martin 45 Camus, Albert 151 Čapek, Karel 9, 12 Čápová, Hana 138 Cardinali, Vanessa 163 Carnap, Rudolf 194 Carruthers, Susan L. 55 Casetti, Francesco 72 Cassirer, Ernst 194 Casteras, Susan P. 166 Certeau, Michel de 71 Chaplin, Charlie 39 Chapman, James 43–44, 46, 48–49, 52–53 Christie, Ian 13, 15 Chute, Hillary L. 161 Císař, Karel 116 Clifford, Rebecca 21 Cohen-Cole, Jamie 60 Cohn, Neil 162 Collingwood, R. G. 183 Collins, Andrew 46 Comrada, Norma 12 Condon, Richard 67 Cook, William R. 96, 97 Corner, John 79, 81 Cosimo, Piero di 112 Costa-Gavras 68 Cranach, Lucas 94 Crumb, Robert 161
Cusato, Michael F. 93 Cuvilliés, Françoise de 106 Dacre, Charlotte 166 Dali, Salvador 64 Dalton, Timothy 41 Daney, Serge 72 Darwin, Charles Robert 61 Davidson, Donald 188 Davis, Natalie Zemon 10, 11 Dawson, Graham 127 Dearden, Basil 63 Debord, Guy 29 Deighton, Len 14 Deleuze, Gilles 115 Derrida, Jacques 34–37, 105, 107 Descartes, René 188 Díaz-Redondo, Rebeca P. 80 Didi-Huberman, Georges 117 Dipple, Geoffrey 93 Doležal, Bohumír 138 Doležal, Jakub 135–136 Doležal, Miloš 132 Doležalová, Marie 136–37 Dorison, Xavier 163 Draper, Anna 87 Dray, William 195 Drda, Adam 138 Duby, Georges 14 Duncan, Paul 44 Dunn, Ben 163 Dunn, James A. 166 Dušek, Martin 139
Eco, Umberto 40, 46, 48, 167 Eisenmann, Peter 74 Eisenstein, Sergei 73 Evans, Richard J. 21
Faltýnek, Vilém 134–35, 138, 139–40 Faltýnková, Lenka 135 Father Cuthbert 95 Fernández-Vilas, Ana 80 Filip, Martin 138 Fiore, Joachim of 91 Fischer, Louis 68 Fleischer, Richard 162 Fleming, Ian 43–44, 46, 48–50, 52 Fleming, John V. 92, 97 Focillon, Henri 102 Forster, Marc 50 Foster, Norman 73 Foucault, Michel 40 Frankenheimer, John 57 Freeman, Mark 147 Frenkel-Brunswik, Else 58 Freud, Sigmund 34–36, 61, 63, 68 Friedan, Betty 65 Friedman, Michael 195 Frisch, Michael 122 Froeyman, Anton 196 Fromm, Erich 60 Frow, John 149 Frugoni, Chiara 97 Fukuyama, Francis 52 Fulbrook, Mary 124
Gadamer, Hans-Georg 189–190, 193 Gado, Frank 111 Garbo, Greta 39 Geertz, Clifford 18 Gehry, Frank 73 Geltner, Guy 93 Gérard, François 159 Gervais, Bertrand 102 Gide, André 68
Gilbert, Lewis 45, 50 Giles, James Richard 150 Gilliam, Terry 71 Gilman, Charlotte Perkins 109, 110 Glassheim, Eagle 125 Glen, John 41, 45–46, 50 Godard, Jean-Luc 32, 71 Goldhagen, Daniel J. 20–21 Golding, Peter 75 Goulding, Edmund 61 Grabar, Oleg 105 Greaves, Colin 87 Green, Anna 124–25 Grele, Ronald 121, 122, 123 Gresham, William 61 Griffin, Susan M. 166 Grimsley, Mark 18 Gross, Terry 168 Guerre, Martin 10 Guillén, Nicolás 146 Gumbrecht, Hans Ulrich 193 Gunning, Tom 83 Gutwirth, Václav 131
Hackmann, Jörg 21 Halbwachs, Maurice 122, 124, 134 Halík, Tomáš 138 Hall, Stuart 40 Hamilton, Guy 42, 50 Hammond, Jay M. 92 Hanzlík, Vašek 136 Harries, Karsten 106, 108 Harvey, David 181 Hawkes, David 40 Haydn, Joseph 184 Heidegger, Martin 189, 190, 194–96
Hepburn, Audrey 39 Herrick, Daniel 88 Heydrich, Reinhard 133, 138 Heyman, Robert 80 Hibbin, Sally 43 Hirano, Kouta 163 Hitchcock, Alfred 60, 62, 64 Hitler, Adolf 136 Hlušička, Tomáš 135–36 Hobsbawm, Eric 15, 20 Hoepli, Luisa Marazzi 30–37 Hoepli, Ulrico 30–35 Hofstadter, Richard 57 Honzíková, Věrka 136 Horkheimer, Max 60 Hughes, Langston 146 Huie, William Bradford 143–44, 154 Huizinga, Johan 187, 192–93 Hunter, Edward 55 Huston, John 62
Icke, Peter 191 Ingram, Russell 145 Iriarte, Lazaro 91
James, Beverly 22 Jameson, Fredric 40, 44, 46–47 Januszczak, Waldemar 82 Jaxon 161 Jensen, Klaus Bruhn 80 Jessen, Lisbeth 132 John, Gottfried 49 Johnson, Catherine 85 Johnson, Timothy J. 96 Jones, Craig 88
Jones, Terry 81, 82 Joyce, James 67 Judt, Tony 15, 19 Jungstedt, Torsten 110
Kael, Pauline 43 Kafka, Franz 67 Kaliba, Miroslav 138 Kamachi, Kazuma 163 Kansteiner, Wulf 124 Kant, Immanuel 106–7, 112–13, 188, 189–90, 194–95 Kapralov, Georgy 42 Kellner, Petr 177–79 Kelly, Henry A. 160 Kenan, Randall 145 Kennaway, James 63 Kennedy, J. F. 46 Kimmins, Anthony 61 Kirby, Jack 162 Klaus, Václav 176 Klein, Melanie 64 Klein, Sheri 160 Kmenta, Jaroslav 176 Koestler, Arthur 68–69 Kogino, Chuya 163 Kohlíčková, Anna 136 Kohout, Milan 175 Kolesárová, Veronika 175 Kolin, Philip C. 154 Kopaněva, Galina 42–43 Kovář, Miloslav 42 Kristeva, Julia 29 Kubík, František 134 Kubrick, Stanley 116 Kyncl, Vojtěch 133
Lach, Jiří 9, 15, 20 Lajoue, Jacques de 105, 106
Lang, Fritz 71 Lansbury, Angela 65 Laplanche, Jean 36–37, 104 Ledbetter, Mark 145 Lefevbre, Henri 181 Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm 186 Lemieux, Audrey 102 Lenin, V. I. 42 León, Bienvenido 79, 80, 81 Levi, Giovanni 18 Levinson, Daniel 58 Lewis, Sinclair 59 Leyda, Jay 27 Libeskind, Daniel 74 Lisa, Philip 43 London, Artur 68 Lorde, Audre 146 Louis XIV 188 Louis XV 106 Lukács, Georg (György) 40, 146 Lukeš, Alexandr 139 Luther, Martin 93 Lyotard, Jean-François 101
Macaulay, Thomas Babington 13 MacCulloch, Diarmaid 93 Macintyre, Ben 48, 50–51 Macková, Jolana 133 Maclean, Donald 51 Magid, Václav 116 Maher, Blake 149 Mahnke, Dietrich 186 Maibaum, Richard 45 Malle, Louis 71 Mankiewicz, Joseph L. 64 Marazzi, Alina 28–37 Maršík, Josef 20
Martinák, Jiří 177 Marwick, Arthur 16 Marx, Karl 40, 180 Mazanec, Martin 113 McCarthy, Joseph 61, 65, 67 McGoohan, Patrick 66 McNamara, Jo Ann 164–65 Mehl, Dominique 75 Meissen, John of 98 Meissonnier, Juste-Aurèle 106–7, 108 Mendes, Sam 51 Metress, Christopher 144, 154 Michálková, Věra 133 Milam, J. W. 143, 144 Milgram, Stanley 60 Miller, J. Hillis 101 Millet, Jean-François 29 Mill, John Stuart 184 Mitchell, J. W. T. 101 Moltke-Hansen, David 13 Moorman, John 92 Moral, Javier Fernandez del 80 Moran, Maureen 160, 166 Morávek, Richard 176 Morrison, Toni 146 Morris, Paul D. 104 Mücke, Pavel 123, 124 Mulvaney, Beth A. 97 Mulvey, Laura 31 Muybridge, Eadweard 82
Nabokov, Vladimir 102, 103–5, 109 Nagel, Thomas 191 Navratil, Leo 111 Nelkin, Dorothy 80 Nešpor, Antonín 137–38 Nezval, Vítězslav 134
Nichols, Bill 79, 83 Nietzsche, Friedrich 62, 191, 192, 196 Nilson, Johann Esaias 108 Nimmo, Duncan 93 Nora, Pierre 10, 122, 193 Nordan, Lewis 143–57 Nouvel, Jean 75 Novotný, Martin 172 Nyberg, Dorothea 107
O’Dowd, Mary 23 O’Neill, Des 86 O’Reilly, Tim 87 Orwell, George 59
Packard, Vance 55, 67 Pagliarini, Marie 162 Palacký, František 13 Panetta, Francesca 135 Patchett, Ann 168 Pěchouček, Michal 102, 113–17 Pelli, Cesar 73 Perkins, Bethany 147 Pešek, Jiří 20 Pettegree, Andrew 93 Pfeiffer, Lee 43 Phillips, Adam 36 Pick, Daniel 11, 58 Pirandello, Luigi 105 Plato 189 Plato, Alexander von 121 Plekhanov, Georgi 40 Polanyi, Karl 180 Pollack, Harriet 144, 147, 149 Pollitt, Katha 167–68 Polo, Marco 72 Pontalis, Jean-Bertrand 36, 104
Porciani, Ilaria 22 Pospiszyl, Tomáš 116 Potůček, Jakub 173 Poulakos, John 131 Powell, Michael 68 Provazník, Zdeněk 134 Purkyně, Jan Evangelista 82 Queneau, Raymond 71
Radstone, Susannah 145 Ramírez, Francisco Esteve 80 Ramses II 194 Reil, Johann Christian 63 Rein, Wolfgang 133 Rey-López, Marta 80 Riefenstahl, Leni 56 Riegl, Alois 102 Robin, Régine 74 Rodriguez, Spain 161 Rorty, Richard 188, 189 Rosa, Davide La 163 Rosenstone, Robert 10, 11 Rothberg, Michael 19 Roth, Philip 59 Rotterdam, Erasmus of 95 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques 189 Rowbotham, Sheila 27 Runia, Eelco 193 Ryan, Pat 161
Sabrow, Martin 23 Saint Agnes of Rome 164–65 Saint Catherine 164 Saint Margaret 164 Saint Perpetua 164 Saint Thecla 164–65
Saltzman, Harry 43 Samuel, Raphael 10 Sanford, Nevitt 58 Sartre, Jean-Paul 151 Schama, Simon 14 Schiller, Friedrich 190 Schofield, John 137 Schudson, Michael 124 Schulz, Bruno 110 Schwarz, Bill 145 Scott, Walter 146 Scribner, Robert W 94 Semotamová, Tereza 135–37 Serna, Ramón Gómez de la 71 Šerých, Jan 103, 113–17 Sheridan, Dave 161 Shibamoto, Thores 163 Shippey, Tom 167 Shoham, Shlomo Giora 150–51 Shub, Esfir 29, 31–32 Siegel, Don 57 Sierek, Karl 76 Silone, Ignazio 68 Sinatra, Frank 62, 65 Sloterdijk, Peter 44 Snyder, Timothy 19 Spender, Stephen 68 Špotová, Hana 137 Stalin, Joseph 40, 49, 65 Starkey, Guy 137 Stehlík, Eduard 133 St. Francis. See Assisi, Francis of Švácha, Rostislav 173, 175, 176 Švagrová, Marta 139 Szcepanik, Petr 20 Szittya, Penn R. 93
Taylor, A. J. P. 14, 15, 18, 20 Thibaut-Pomerantz, Carolle 102 Thompson, J. L. 42 Thompson, Paul 121 Thomson, Alistair 121, 122, 123 Till, Emmett 143–57 Tollebeek, Jo 20 Truffaut, François 72 Tse-tung, Mao 55, 65 Ulrych, Ivan 133 Utz, Richard 167
Vaněk, Miroslav 123, 124 Varda, Agnès 29 Védrès, Nicole 29 Vertov, Dziga 71 Vigne, Daniel 10 Vinci, Leonardo da 112–13 Virilio, Paul 76 Votýpka, Vladimír 127 Voženílek, Vít 174 Vuillard, Édouard 115
Weinar, Adam 104–5 Welles, Orson 60, 63 Wells, H. G. 59 White, Hayden 9, 183, 187 Wiene, Robert 61 William III 188 Williams, Tennessee 64 Wilson, Michael G. 39, 43 Winnicott, Donald 59 Wittgenstein, Ludwig 193 Witt, Michael 33 Wolman, Gil J. 29 Woollacott, Janet 40 Worrall, Dave 43 Worringer, Wilhelm 102
Worth, Sol 71–72 Wright, Richard 68 Wrigley, Chris 18
Yagi, Norihiro 163 Yoshida, Sunao 163 Young, Terence 49
Zatloukal, Pavel 173 Zedong, Mao. See Tse-tung, Mao Zhdanov, Andrei A. 41 Zielinski, Thomas 136 Zikmund-Lender, Ladislav 178 Zindel, Udo 132–33 Žižek, Slavoj 44, 53 Zschokke, Anna 88 Zuntych, Ondřej 174
Where Is History Today? New Representations of the Past Edited by Marcel Arbeit and Ian Christie Managing Editor: Vendula Drozdová Copy Editor: Simon Gill Proofreading: Lenka Zajícová Layout and cover design: Jiří Fogl Published and printed by Palacký University Olomouc Křížkovského 8, 771 47 Olomouc, Czech Republic www.vydavatelstvi.upol.cz [email protected]
Olomouc 2015 First Edition ISBN 978-80-244-4760-5 VUP 2015/0409
History no longer belongs only to historians, but is woven into the fabric and discourse of daily life. This fresh and wide-ranging survey explores how new media and new historiographic approaches are dramatically expanding what we understand by “history” today. Controversy about the aims and limits of historical analysis has raged ever since the rise of postmodern history in the 1970s. But these debates have rarely affected the understanding of history in Central and Eastern Europe. This collection results from a pioneering collaboration between Czech and international scholars, based at Palacký University in Olomouc during 2013–2015, which focused on the uses and abuses of history today, viewed from both Eastern and Western European perspectives. The volume confirms the crucial importance of audiovisual and mass media, from film to television and radio to comics, but does not exclude literary scholars and art historians who are also rethinking their methods, taking note of their new consumers. If history formerly appeared to be a one-way transmission of expertise, it is increasingly a dynamic engagement between researchers and audiences.