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Gabbard, G.O. (1989). Images in our Souls. Cavell, Psychoanalysis, and Cinema. Psychiatry and the Humanities, Vol. 10: Edited by Joseph H. Smith, M.D. and William Kerrigan, Ph.D. Baltimore/London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987. 207 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 58:498-501.

(1989). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 58:498-501

Images in our Souls. Cavell, Psychoanalysis, and Cinema. Psychiatry and the Humanities, Vol. 10: Edited by Joseph H. Smith, M.D. and William Kerrigan, Ph.D. Baltimore/London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987. 207 pp.

Review by:
Glen O. Gabbard

Stanley G. Cavell, Walter M. Cabot Professor of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value at Harvard, is a distinguished American philosopher who is also well known among psychoanalytically informed film scholars for his interest in screwball comedies from the 1930's and 1940's. In his most respected work, Pursuits of Happiness, he focuses on the remarriage comedy as a specific genre. Encompassing such popular American films as The Philadelphia Story, It Happened One Night, Bringing Up Baby, and Adam's Rib, the remarriage comedy is characterized by the transformation of a relationship based on brother-sister intimacy into an erotic bond. Examples of this plot development include Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracey in Adam's Rib and Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant in The Philadelphia Story. Cavell links the process of the lovers' refinding one another in these films to Kierkegaard's notion of repetition, Nietzsche's concept of eternal recurrence (the symbol of which is the wedding ring), and Freud's repetition compulsion. Indeed, an attempt to forge a grand synthesis of psychoanalysis, philosophy, and film is the trademark of Cavell.

In the volume under review here, Cavell contributes only the first of ten chapters. In his opening essay, he attempts to extend his previous work by defining a new genre—the melodrama of the unknown woman. Derived from the Max Ophuls film, Letter from an Unknown Woman, this genre is related to remarriage comedy but differs from it in that "the themes and structure of the comedy are modified or negated in such a way as to reveal systematically the threats (of misunderstanding, of violence) that in each of the remarriage comedies dog its happiness" (p. 14).

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