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Creme, P. (1993). D.N. Rodowick, The Difficulty of Difference Psychoanalysis, Sexual Difference and Film Theory London: Routledge, 1991. Free Associations, 4(1):151-156.

(1993). Free Associations, 4(1):151-156

D.N. Rodowick, The Difficulty of Difference Psychoanalysis, Sexual Difference and Film Theory London: Routledge, 1991

Review by:
Phyllis Creme

In The Difficulty of Difference, Rodowick attempts to construct a way of reading a film — making meaning from it — which, based on an account of fantasy in Freud, undermines the apparent efforts of films themselves to reproduce clearcut masculine/feminine distinctions in the spectator. Essentially his project is to replace a critical model of ‘difference’ by one of ‘differences’. His field of enquiry is that area of film criticism and theory which, for the last twenty years, has been using psychoanalysis for its own purposes to explore a range of issues concerning film spectatorship: the act of watching a film and the relation between film and viewer. Rodowick focuses on film's construction of sexual difference, which has been of particular concern to feminist writers.

The exploration of psychoanalysis and film was taken up in the UK in the 1970s through the film journal Screen, and its initial focus, which Rodowick adopts, was an attempt to bring together questions of ideology and psychoanalysis. For instance, it dealt with the ‘myth’ of the unified subject as induced by Western culture, embedded in the construction of the psyche and persistently reinforced by classic narrative cinema.

The psychoanalytic model which film studies has appropriated is essentially Freudian, heavily inflected by Lacan's particular view of subjectivity. Explorations of sexual difference in the cinema have drawn on what is seen as Lacan's deterministic account of the Oedipal moment: the child's entry into the Symbolic system — language and culture — is presented as coterminous with the construction of sexual difference founded upon castration and the possession or not of the phallus as the means of representing loss (‘lack’.

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