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Mathes, B. (2019). Words of Seeing: Critical Flicker Fusion: Psychoanalysis at the Movies. By William Fried Karnac 2017, 184 pages, $30.93 (Confederation of Independent Psychoanalytic Societies series on the boundaries of psychoanalysis). DIVISION/Rev., 19:7-9.
    

(2019). DIVISION/Review, 19:7-9

Book Reviews

Words of Seeing: Critical Flicker Fusion: Psychoanalysis at the Movies. By William Fried Karnac 2017, 184 pages, $30.93 (Confederation of Independent Psychoanalytic Societies series on the boundaries of psychoanalysis)

Review by:
Bettina Mathes

1. Born in Europe in the last years of the 19th century, psychoanalysis and the moving image are siblings. So, of course, they had a complicated relationship. In 1925, Georg Wilhelm Papst prepared a production of his silent film Geheimnisse einer Seele (Secrets of a Soul) collaborating with Karl Abraham (who did not live to see the movie) and Hanns Sachs as consultants. Ten years earlier, Harvard psychologist Hugo Münsterberg had likened the cinema to Freud's theory of the mind in his now classic study Das Lichtspiel (The Photoplay). Meanwhile, father Freud was not amused: he famously disliked the movies, believing films had nothing to contribute to psychoanalysis and vice versa.

Starting in the 1970s, scholars like Jean-Louis Baudry, Christian Metz, Laura Mulvey (who is also a film-maker), Teresa de Lauretis and Tania Modleski began to employ psychoanalytic theory-for the most part drawing on Freud and Lacan-to explain the ways in which the cinema produces meaning and shapes the spectator as gendered subject. Concepts such as unconscious signifier, dream work, screen memory, mirror stage, the gaze, voyeurism, phallus, and fetish were instrumental in ushering in a new kind of film criticism, concerned with naming and critiquing the powerful effects of the cinematic apparatus on the spectator's unconscious. Most recently, Winnicottian notions such as the transitional object, potential space, and holding environment have been used by both scholars and therapists to understand more about how spectators experience and “use” the films they watch (Sabbadini, 2011; Kuhn, 2013).

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