Real Deceptions: The Inaugural Eckstein Symposium in Media Studies

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Hillary Neroni at the 2013 Real Deceptions: The Inaugural Eckstein Symposium
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Robert Pfaller at the 2013 Real Deceptions: The Inaugural Eckstein Symposium

Real Deceptions: The Inaugural Eckstein Symposium in Media Studies

Thursday, April 25 & Friday April 26, 2013

  • Justin Clemens, Senior Lecturer of English, University of Melbourne
  • Henry Krips, Andrew W. Mellon All-Claremont Chair of Humanities and Professor of Cultural Studies, Claremont Graduate University
  • Jennifer Friedlander, Edgar E. and Elizabeth S. Pankey Professor of Media Studies and Associate Professor of Media Studies, Pomona College
  • Charles Shepherdson, Professor of English, University of Albany
  • Ellie Ragland, Professor of English, University of Missouri
  • Todd McGowan, Associate Professor of Film and Television, University of Vermont
  • Robert Pfaller, Professor Dr. of Philosophy, University of Applied of Arts, Vienna

The event provided a very rare opportunity for experts in a highly specialized sub-field to present their research to each other and to the students in the course who studied their work.  One of the key goals of the event was to provide students with the chance to interact with luminaries in a small, intimate setting, rather than in a public forum.  The students introduced each speaker and had opportunities to interact with them at lunch on both days.

The Symposium Schedule is as follows:

Thursday, April 25
9:15:
Coffee/Tea/Pastries
9:30
JUSTIN CLEMENS
Senior Lecturer of English
University of Melbourne
Figure, Beauty, Splendour, Figures
Abstract:
‘First of all I did not want a figure. I was ashamed, I was dead ashamed of a figure I would rather be dead or be underground than have a figure and show my body.’ — Louise Bourgeois, 27 November 1951
Jacques Lacan, in the famous final sections of Seminar VII, The ethics of psychoanalysis, proposes a decisive analysis of the figure of Antigone. Certain elements of this analysis have become justly famous, perhaps above all the little formula that a true ethics means: don’t give way on your desire. But not giving way on your desire isn’t something you simply choose, and it isn’t something that’s good for you in any real way. In fact, the putrescence of the body as it is pursued and exposed by state torture and execution regimes will be at stake: what could be more real than the spectacular extraction of truth from flesh that extra-judicial torture allegedly effects? The relation between the Other and the body is at stake. This paper aims to reconstruct Lacan’s argument in this regard; yet, in doing so, it will also suggest difficulties with his argument that Lacan himself recognised. These difficulties are later treated by Lacan by way of a shift from theatrical figure to mathematical figures, from the staging of the self-destruction of the subject as a body-mind dyad, to the inscription of letters that have no special figure to be destroyed.
11:00
HENRY KRIPS
Andrew W. Mellon All-Claremont Chair of Humanities and Professor of Cultural Studies
Claremont Graduate University
Realism and the Real
Abstract:
Against traditional criticisms of realism, I’ll be using Walter Benjamin’s account of collective innervation in cinema supplemented by Slavoj Zizek’s Lacanian account of the relation between reality, phantasy and the Lacanian Real. Taken together, I argue, these accounts point to a new politically “revolutionary” form of realism – what we might better call (capital “R”) Realism – which operates via the intrusion of “unrealistic” Real phantasy elements into cinematic realist representations. I will use this hybrid of Zizek’s and Benjamin’s work in order to address a question that their individual accounts leave unanswered: namely what is there about a film that, through its collective constitutive impact upon an audience, might lead it to realize its revolutionary potential? Or, to ask the question in more concrete terms: why has it turned out that the films that Benjamin regards as enjoying a revolutionary potential, such as early Disney cartoons, have failed to realize that potential, and instead have been sucked up into the maw of the Hollywood entertainment industry (either as exhibits in its museums or as items of nostalgia)?
12:15
Lunch in the Peter W. Stanley Academic Quad
1:30
JENNIFER FRIEDLANDER
Edgar E. and Elizabeth S. Pankey Professor of Media Studies/Associate Professor of Media Studies
Pomona College
Documentary REAL-ism: Catfish and This is not a Film
Abstract:
This paper explores two recent documentary films, one of which may not be a documentary, the other of which may not be a film. Although starkly different in their subject matter and political stakes, both Catfish (Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost, 2010) and This is Not a Film (Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, 2011) point to underappreciated dimensions of filmic realism, in particular its propensity to evoke what I will call Real-ism—i.e. hints of the Real that emerge precisely when the symbolic framework governing reality becomes imperiled. Drawing upon Jacques Lacan’s notion of the Real and Jacques Rancière’s concept of the “aesthetic regime,” I will suggest that elements of conventional filmic realism have the potential to produce a politically destabilizing Real-ism which, rather than involving the representation of reality in any recognizable form, calls forth that which is necessarily excluded/repressed from the symbolic framework.
3:00
CHARLES SHEPHERDSON
Professor of English
University at Albany
Fear and Anxiety:  Destinies of the Subject from Kant to Lacan
Abstract:
This talk moves through three moments in the history of fear:
(1)”pity and fear” in tragedy and in Aristotle’s discussion of catharsis (where emotion is purged or transformed or sublimated).
(2) “fear and the feeling of respect” in Kant’s account of the sublime (where fear of death is transformed into the subject’s “feeling of respect” as a sort of moral feeling).
(3) Lacan’s discussion of anxiety, in Television, where he presents Caravaggio’s painting of the Sacrifice of Isaac, which I interpret as an account of the difference between anxiety and desire — in other words, the difference between the traumatizing affect of jouissance, and a binding of jouissance to the signifier, on behalf of desire.
4:15
Reception
Friday, April 26
9:15:
Coffee/Tea/Pastries
9:30
ELLIE RAGLAND
Professor of English
University of Missouri
From Barthes’ ‘Realism Effect’ to Lacan’s Real
Abstract:
The talk begins with a discussion of the relation between Barthes’ ideas on the real and reality and Lacan’s.  A major emphasis will be the difference between the real as illusory effects in narrative (Barthes) and the real as residing in the unconscious (the later Lacan). I also emphasize how Lacan’s concept of the real as that which decompletes language differs from Godel’s incompleteness theorem and stresses, rather, fixations, unary traits, flashes of trauma or discontent. My paper thus moves from discussing differences and similarities in Lacan and Barthes to an examination of Lacan’s real as a unique category itself, and an exploration of his four periods of defining the real.
11:00
TODD MCGOWAN
Associate Professor of Film and Television
University of Vermont
Flight into Reality
Abstract:
My paper argues that, since Hegel, philosophy has viewed mediation as a problem that it must surmount.  This process begins with Kierkegaard and continues throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.  From Deleuze’s critique of representation to postcolonial theory’s attack on the
colonizing function of language, mediation appears as a problem to avoid or overcome.  Thinkers tend to view mediation as a barrier to reality or to revolutionary awakening but fail to see how it creates the reality that it represents.  My contention is that it is only by apprehending that there is no outside to mediation that we can, paradoxically, accede to the reality that mediation obscures.
12:15
Lunch in the Peter W. Stanley Academic Quad
1:30
ROBERT PFALLER
Professor Dr. of Philosophy
University of Applied Arts, Vienna.
DEAL WITH THE REAL: How to do it and What For
Abstract:
As Sigmund Freud remarks, art is one of the attempts to regain a pleasure which is forever lost for adult human beings. If we call the object of this lost pleasure the “Real” (as Lacan does), we can state that all art is “Realist” – since it deals with this Real. The differences between aesthetic strategies therefore do not stem from the question whether they refer to this Real or not, but from how they handle that which is per definition “too hot to handle”.
To draw a rough line, I would suggest that there exists a tragedy and a comedy strategy – within all genres, not only in the dramatic arts. Tragic arts deal with the Real through their strategy of failure: in tragedy, the appearance of the Real is kept at bay, since the heroic endeavours never reach their great goal. In arts that follow the comedy model, on the contrary, nothing is considered great which cannot appear. Therefore the most incredible endeavours succeed. This can be called comedy’s materialism. The diving line in the arts would therefore run between tragic, idealist Realism, and comedian, materialist Realism.
3:00
HILARY NERONI
Associate Professor of Film and Television
University of Vermont
“The Truth Takes Time:” The Real and its relationship to fantasy in Alias

 

Abstract:
Alias redefines the playing field upon which national security against
terrorism is laid out. It moves it from a masculinist logic to a
feminist one and thus dissolves biopower in favor of the Real.  The
Real is not easy to confront, however. It is more risky and always unknown, but
it is a risk that makes space for the subject without condemning the
body.  The rhetoric of the necessity of torture is based on an idea of
the biopolitical body, one devoid of a desiring subject. I will argue that it is
only in turning toward the more terrifying prospect of the Real that we
can turn away from torture and toward the subject.
4:15
Reception