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Expressivism and Devotional Poetics

Date and Time: 
Friday, April 8, 2022. 12:00 PM
Meeting Location: 
Zoom
Workshop: 
Working Group in Literary & Visual Culture
Meeting Description: 

The Working Group in Literary and Visual Culture invites you to our first event of spring quarter presented by Pedro Jiménez, PhD candidate in Philosophy and Literature.

Hegel suggests approaching artworks as artifacts displaying an effort to think about spiritual or intellectual concerns through what he calls sensuous semblances. Artworks express an awareness of an idea and not merely a representation of it. So that if successful, each artwork is an expression of its own ends. Moreover, according to Hegel, that which can be expressed through artworks can only be experienced and understood in this manner. In Hegel this is later supplemented by thought. But we may decide not to take that step up and linger at the aesthetic level exploring its own possibilities and puzzling implications.  

In order to investigate this expressive feature of Hegel’s aesthetics, I propose to present a brief exposition of the main tenets of Nathaniel Dorsky’s Devotional Cinema. First, to spell out its own devotional poetics. And second, to examine how such poetics are also manifested in scenes in Dryer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc; Ozu’s The Only Sun; Rossellini’s Journey to Italy, and Antonioni’s The Night. These films are exposures of expressive poetics because they are not about a subject, because they are themselves the subject.  

And the style that Dorsky admires is exhibited in his experimental films as well: silent and without dialogue, music, characters or plot. Disclosing as subjects themselves in the lyricism of their montage, the site of collaboration between form and content. They are not theatrical depictions, rather they are what they are in and of themselves. And their meaning is effected by direct reference, as it were. Thus, devotional poetics turns on the ability to cultivate a film whose vision can blossom on its own, and as such, open up in us an aesthetic appreciation akin to the Hegelian picture of sensual semblances. That is to say, the capacity to reveal in an embodiment the dual suffusion between form and subject matter. Indeed, a commitment to the following aesthetic desideratum: that form charts the subject as the subject shapes the form.

Lunch will be provided (via $25 DoorDash gift certificates) to the first 20 qualified attendees to register. RSVP >>


Made possible by support from an anonymous donor honoring the work of former SHC Director John Bender, the Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities

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