Reading the Figural, or, Philosophy After the New Media
D. N. Rodowick
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In Reading the Figural, or, Philosophy after the New Media D. N. Rodowick applies the concept of “the figural” to a variety of philosophical and aesthetic issues. Inspired by the aesthetic philosophy of Jean-François Lyotard, the figural defines a semiotic regime where the distinction between linguistic and plastic representation breaks down. This opposition, which has been the philosophical foundation of aesthetics since the eighteenth century, has been explicitly challenged by the new electronic, televisual, and digital media. Rodowick—one of the foremost film theorists writing today—contemplates this challenge, describing and critiquing the new regime of signs and new ways of thinking that such media have inaugurated.
To fully comprehend the emergence of the figural requires a genealogical critique of the aesthetic, Rodowick claims. Seeking allies in this effort to deconstruct the opposition of word and image and to create new concepts for comprehending the figural, he journeys through a range of philosophical writings: Thierry Kuntzel and Marie-Claire Ropars-Wuilleumier on film theory; Jacques Derrida on the deconstruction of the aesthetic; Siegfried Kracauer and Walter Benjamin on the historical image as a utopian force in photography and film; and Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault on the emergence of the figural as both a semiotic regime and a new stratagem of power coincident with the appearance of digital phenomena and of societies of control.
Scholars of philosophy, film theory, cultural criticism, new media, and art history will be interested in the original and sophisticated insights found in this book.
below the drawings, forever serving them as a common frontier. It is there, on those few millimeters of white, the calm sand of the page, that are established all the relations of designation, nomination, description, classiﬁcation’’ (Pipe ). Now these borders are shifting and dissolving. In the era of electronic communication, the quotidian activity of the image that illustrates and the sentence that comments have been disrupted by similitude—an uncanny and paradoxical repetition propelled by
ﬁgure of condensation, presupposes a relation of intelligibility if not a logical relation per se. This caution is put forward only because the ‘‘rationality’’ of the dream, unlike that of speech, radically excludes the criterion of noncontradiction. The copresence of a concept and its antithesis is the foundation of its sense, not its dismantling. If Derrida ﬁnds in the dream the primordial work of the trace, it is precisely because dream logic is founded on the fracturing of the self-identical
clear in this respect: the former only ‘‘accompanies the ﬁction by reﬂecting it; the latter, which has to do with the semiotics of signiﬁcation, causes the narrative to waver by temporarily breaking it oﬀ ’’ (‘‘Graphic’’ ). The hieroglyphic dimension of Godard’s text thus ensures, through the montage’s eccentric spatial conﬁgurations, that modernist letters invade and disassemble popular ﬁction, molding that ﬁction in its image. For Ropars, the text of Godard guarantees itself in writing, ﬁrst
deﬁnition of judgments of pure taste seems to recede from both the social and the creaturely toward an interiorized, immaterial subjectivity, how does the experience of ﬁne art advance the culture of mental powers with respect to social communication? In other words, how is the pleasure—without enjoyment or concept—of art returned to the space of philosophical communication in the predicate ‘‘This is beautiful’’? These questions are answered by considering the curious role of mimesis in the third
‘‘that does not give itself to be seen or thought; it is indicated in a lateral fashion, fugitive at the heart of discourse and perception, as that which troubles them. It is the proper space of desire, the 6343 Rodowick / READING THE FIGURAL / sheet 27 of 296 Presenting the Figural 9 stakes in the struggle that painters and poets have ceaselessly launched against the return of the Ego and the text’’ (). The blinding energy of desire ﬂows, rather than is articulated, and it is these decoded