Toni’s Post on Mulvey

From Laura Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”:

“Quite apart from the extraneous similarities between screen and mirror (the framing of the human form in its surroundings, for instance), the cinema has structures of fascination strong enough to allow temporary loss of ego while simultaneously reinforcing it.  The sense of forgetting the world as the ego has come to perceive it (I forgot who I am and where I was) is nostalgically reminiscent of that pre-subjective moment of image recognition.” (2087)

As I was reading this passage from Mulvey’s piece, I liken it to Freud’s dream interpretation.  It almost seems as if the ego (while at the theater) is in a dreamlike state – we do lose consciousness in a sense as we become enthralled in the action of the movie.  The two ideas separate at interpretation however – dreams require interpretative analysis, and the movie ‘dream’ is interpreted for us.  Perhaps the reason we are drawn into the film is the fact that it does frame the “human form” for us.

I am also drawn to Barthes’ discussion of the birth of the reader at the expense of the death of the author.  Mulvey seems to be saying that the reader in her piece is the audience – there is no consideration of the author or director for that matter.  The experience of viewing a film in this semi-conscious state really supports Barthes notion that “a text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination” (1325).  It is the viewer who determines the destination of the text, and consideration of the author is irrelevant.

Mulvey also made me think about the play within the play of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, for example.  We rather easily become not only the audience of the play, but are “neatly combined without breaking narrative verisimilitude” with the audience portrayed in the play as well (Hamlet, Gertrude, and Claudius).  We are almost in a semi-semi-conscious state – aware of the play where we are aware of the audience who is aware of the play – follow???  The gaze of the audience is placed on the gaze of another audience.

One thought on “Toni’s Post on Mulvey”

  1. Lacan says that the mirror stage “establish[es] a relationship between the organism and its reality”

    I think the word “relationship” is important here. Every time I have heard the mirror stage invoked in a discussion, the focus has been on the disconnect that begins at this point, the recognition of the self as a separate entity, distinct from the parent, differentiated from the rest of the world. This reading developed my understanding of the mirror stage’s impact on the individual beyond the idea that it [the mirror stage] represents the moment of that awakening in the infant. The recognition of oneself as separate and “see-able” and yet competent and fully-formed as a subject is, I think, more relevant to reading. The boundary between self and other, between subject and object, is not simply a separation but a “relationship” in which an understanding of Not-Me informs the understanding of Me. I think this elaboration helped me better apply the concept to reading–that is, to the process of understanding ‘reading’ as an interaction between a necessarily limited perspective and another necessarily limited perspective.

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