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Overview


Departing from those who define postmodernism in film merely as a visual style or set of narrative conventions, Anne Friedberg develops the first sustained account of the cinema's role in postmodern culture. She explores the ways in which nineteenth-century visual experiences—photography, urban strolling, panorama and diorama entertainments—anticipate contemporary pleasures provided by cinema, video, shopping malls, and emerging "virtual reality" technologies.

Comparing the visual practices of shopping, tourism, and film-viewing, Friedberg identifies the experience of "virtual" mobility through time and space as a key determinant of postmodern cultural identity. Evaluating the theories of Jameson, Lyotard, Baudrillard, and others, she adds critical insights about the role of gender and gender mobility in the configurations of consumer culture.

A strikingly original work, Window Shopping challenges many of the existing assumptions about what exactly postmodern is. This book marks the emergence of a compelling new voice in the study of contemporary culture.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This scholarly work proposes that an integral feature of both film and television is the ``mobilized virtual gaze.'' This virtual gaze ``is not a direct perception but a received perception mediated through representation.'' Also, the virtual gaze is a standard part of postmodern society, along with a diminished capacity to retain the past. Drawing from a wide range of sources, Friedberg traces the development of the virtual gaze from Jeremy Bentham's proposed glass prison, the Paris arcades, the creation of department stores, architecture, tourism, and the shopping mall. If the disappearance of history is indeed a symptom of postmodernity, then the author feels that movies and especially videos have added significantly to this development. Her interesting thesis is well presented. Academic collections should consider.-- Marianne Cawley, Kingwood Branch Lib., Tex.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520089242
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 8/31/1994
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 287
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author


Anne Friedberg i is the Professor and Chair of Critical Studies at the
University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts.
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Read an Excerpt

Window Shopping

Cinema & the Postmodern
By Anne Friedberg

University of California Press

Copyright © 1994 Anne Friedberg
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780520089242

Introduction:
Looking Backward—an Introduction to the Concept of "Post"

The past can be seized only as an image which flashes up at the instant when it can be recognized and is never seen again. . . . For every image of the past that is not recognized by the present as one of its own concerns threatens to disappear irretrievably.
WALTER BENJAMIN, "On the Concept of History"

The Past, the Present, the Virtual

As the century draws to a close, the cultural detritus of the last two decades may well be measured by the rhetorical debates about the social formation called "postmodernity," and the subjective position deemed the "postmodern condition."1 In a 1983 essay, Fredric Jameson, one of the key diagnosticians of postmodernity, catalogued some of its symptoms as:

the disappearance of history, the way in which our entire contemporary social system has little by little begun to lose its capacity to retain its own past, has begun to live in a perpetual present and in a perpetual change that obliterates traditions.2 (emphasis added)

This "disappearance of history" and its corollary effect, a life in the "perpetual present," has emerged as one of the mostprofound depictions of "postmodern" subjectivity. Yet these charges strike a chord that resonates back to the middle of the last century. In 1859, Charles Baudelaire indicted photography as being a "cheap method of disseminating a loathing for history."3 Baudelaire was an early declaimer of the dangerous transformations of history and memory that the photographic image would produce. Despite photography's "loathing for history," Baudelaire also recognized it as a technique that could preserve "precious things whose form is dissolvingand which demand a place in the archives of our memory."4 In this double-edged reaction, Baudelaire prophetically noted the emergence of a new archive of memory which obscures the past in the guise of preserving it. For Baudelaire, the disappearance of history was a potential consequence of the photographic image.5

The debates about the "post" to "modernity" address these same reshufflings of history and memory and are infused with many of the same ambivalences about the cultural effects of these new configurations.6 Theorists continue to examine the qualitative transformations of time, space, and subjectivity in what has variously been called postindustrial society (Daniel Bell), multinational capitalism and consumer society (Jameson), the society of the spectacle (Guy Debord), the neocolonial (Gayatri Spivak).7

In this crucible of philosophic debate, where history and memory are endangered forms, cinematic and televisual apparatuses become readable not just as symptoms of a "postmodern condition," but as contributing causes. A diminished capacity to retain the past is, as I will argue, a loss that has figured as the price of the cinema's cultural gain. Cinema and television—mechanical and electronic extensions of photography's capacity to transform our access to history and memory—have produced increasingly detemporalized subjectivities. At the same time, the ubiquity of cinematic and televisual representations has fostered an increasingly derealized sense of "presence" and identity. Seen in this context, descriptions of a decentered, derealized, and detemporalized postmodern subject form a striking parallel to the subjective consequences of cinema and televisual spectatorship. Where, then, does the "postmodern condition" begin?

Rather than proclaiming a single distinct moment of rupture—when the modern ended and the postmodern began—I suggest a gradual and indistinct epistemological tear along the fabric of modernity, a change produced by the increasing cultural centrality of an integral feature of both cinematic and televisual apparatuses: a mobilized "virtual" gaze . The virtual gaze 8 is not a direct perception but a received perception mediated through representation.9 I introduce this compound term in order to describe a gaze that travels in an imaginary flbnerie through an imaginary elsewhere and an imaginary elsewhen. The mobilized gaze has a history, which begins well before the cinema and is rooted in other cultural activities that involve walking and travel. The virtual gaze has a history rooted in all forms of visual representation (back to cave painting), but produced most dramatically by photography. The cinema developed as an apparatus that combined the "mobile" with the "virtual." Hence, cinematic spectatorship changed, in unprecedented ways, concepts of the present and the real .

As a device to organize a critical intervention into the theorization of the "postmodern," I borrow a conceit from social and textual accounts of the nineteenth century—that fundamental paradigm of the subject in modernity, the flbneur. Flbnerie will serve as an explanatory device to trace changes in representation and the aesthetic experience in the nineteenth century. As a social and textual construct for a mobilized visuality, flbnerie can be historically situated as an urban phenomenon linked to, in gradual but direct ways, the new aesthetic of reception found in "moviegoing." As I will argue, the imaginary flbnerie of cinema spectatorship offers a spatially mobilized visuality but also, importantly, a temporal mobility. This use of the historical model of the flbneur will also draw attention to the gendering of power and visuality in the configurations of modernity. It is here that we can find the origins of the flbneuse , the female counterpart to the male subject in modernity.

By introducing the terms mobilized and virtual , I hope to widen the historical focus in accounts of the emergence of the cinema, and to extend a consideration of cinematic spectatorship to other activities that supply an imaginary flbnerie. Hence, I will argue that to trace the cultural formations that endowed visuality with its ultimately dominant power, it will be necessary also to analyze the cultural contexts for these acts of looking: the social behaviors involved in the examination of goods on display (shopping) and the experience of "foreign" spaces (tourism). The cultural shifts resulting from the organization of the look in the service of consumption, and the gradual incorporation of the commodified experience into everyday life, has, I will argue, profoundly altered the subjective role of memory and history.

In the nineteenth century, machines that changed the measure of space and time (machines of mobility, including trains, steamships, bicycles, elevators, escalators, moving walkways, and, later, automobiles and airplanes) changed the relation between sight and bodily movement. A variety of architectural forms also emerged in the nineteenth century which facilitated and encouraged a pedestrian mobilized gaze—exhibition halls, winter-gardens, arcades, department stores, museums. The pedestrian in a glass enclosed winter-garden or exhibition hall enjoyed an endless summer;arcades protected against weather; museums brought artifacts of the past into a tourable present. As the technical advances of iron and glass architecture changed the temporal concept of the seasonal, institutional museology changed the relation to the past.10 And, just as machines of transport (from the railway to the trottoir roulant ) produced a new experience of distance and time, these architectural spaces were, in a sense, machines of timelessness, producing a derealized sense of the present and a detemporalized sense of the real.11 Coincident with the new mobilities produced by changes in transportation, architecture and urban planning, photography brought with it a virtual gaze, one that brought the past to the present, the distant to the near, the miniscule to its enlargement. And machines of virtual transport (the panorama, the diorama, and later, the cinema) extended the virtual gaze of photography to provide virtual mobility.

At the beginnings of consumer culture, this gaze became imbued with the power of choice and incorporation: the shopper's gaze. During the mid-nineteenth century, the coincident development of department store shopping, packaged tourism, and protocinematic entertainment began to transform this mobilized gaze into a commodity, one sold to a consumer-spectator. These forms of commodified visual mobility, once only available in the imperial cities of the first world, gradually became a global standard of modernity. And here, at the base of modernity, the social underpinnings of gender began to shift. Women were empowered with new forms of social mobility as shoppers, as tourists, as cinema-goers.

The gradual shift into postmodernity is marked, I argue, by the increased centrality of the mobilized and virtual gaze as a fundamental feature of everyday life. Although the social formations of modernity were increasingly mediated through images, this gaze was initially restricted to the public sphere (within "high" culture in painterly views and theatrical experiences, or within "low" culture in the arcade, the department store, the diorama, or the panorama).12 In postmodernity, the spatial and temporal displacements of a mobilized virtual gaze are now as much a part of the public sphere (in, for example, the shopping mall and multiplex cinema) as they are a part of the private (at home, with the television and the VCR). The boundaries between public and private, already fragile in modernity, have now been more fully eroded. The mobilized virtual gaze is now available in the video markets of Katmandu and other outposts of the imperial web of technoculture.13 The original title of this book relied on a palimpsest of references: Baudelaire, Walter Benjamin, the shopping mall. Unfortunately that title—Les Flbneurs du Mal(l) —did little to indicate these sources to an uninitiated reader. Baudelaire's collection of poems entitled Les Fleurs du Mal (Flowers of Evil) was the cornerstone of Benjamin's massive work on modernity, his uncompleted study of the Paris arcades. Les Fleurs du Mal , according to Benjamin, recorded the ambulatory "gaze of the flbneur" on "Paris—Capital of the Nineteenth Century." The title Les Flbneurs du Mall , was thus an appropriative double pun (on fleurs and on mal ), locating the flbnerie of the postmodern cinema spectator in the shopping mall. Window Shopping —a title that came late to the manuscript—is the loosest of equivalents, evoking similar motifs of visuality, contemplation, and pedestrian mobility while remaining a key metaphor for spectatorship, whether it be in the shopping mall multiplex or at home in front of the TV screen.

Method

As the above summary indicates, I have drawn from a variety of ongoing debates and several potentially conflicting discourses. It is therefore important to draw these methodological premises to the surface. This book is addressed to three distinct but overlapping discursive fields: 1) the debates about the "postmodern," debates that have already formed an interdisciplinary domain, labeled everything from "cultural studies" to combinations of philosophy, history, literary theory, and art and architectural history, 2) film studies, which include the often-warring methodologies of film history and film theory, and 3) feminist studies, an equally interdisciplinary (and ever-widening) discursive arena. Here then, I will signpost the goals of my argument for each of these areas:

Debates about Postmodernity

Post implies historical sequence, a moment of rupture when the post succeeds the past . But, as historiographers remind us, history is not only a discourse but a product of discourses.14 The debates about postmodernity have often been marked by—as if a product of their own discourse—a symptomatic amnesia to the past. I argue the need to reintroduce history into the debate about the postmodern; and I argue that accounts of the cinema and the postmodern require a wider historical focus than simply that of the last two decades or since World War II.



As a historiographical consequence of suggesting a pre history to the "post modern," the problem of teleology looms large. Attempts to historicize "emergence" can veer toward a narrativized account of "convergences." Here it is important to acknowledge the two potentially conflicting objectives of this study: to show that the cinema (as it "emerged" as a technology and commodity form) was defined by the mobilized and virtual gaze, and to describe the gradual, yet specific, differences in the "postmodern" mobilization of this gaze. If the hidden danger of the first is teleology, that of the second is the unwitting celebration of all that is "new and different" in the postmodern. To negotiate the narrow passage between these perilous straits will require a cautious historiography.15

As we will see, the very term post —and the periodization it implies—incites discord. I contend that the ever-increasing cultural centrality of the mobilized and virtual gaze produced a gradual change, not an apocalyptic rupture, and that the initial frayings were present at the beginnings of the break into the "modern." This argument places a prehistory of postmodernity in the nineteenth century amid transformations that theorists have otherwise termed the "prehistory of modernity." The emergence of the cinema was, I will argue, a "proto-postmodern" cultural symptom.

Any contemporary work advocating a "return to history" needs to define its relation not only to the "new historicism," but also to history, to notions of the past. The tag of new historicist has been attached to methods that replace the "old" historicism of the nineteenth century, and which resist the bent of neopositivism, facticity, and the myth of historical objectivity—while at the same time rejecting the notions of the autonomous text found in critical formalism. A new historicism insists on reconnecting text with con text.16

Because this book crosses disciplinary boundaries (architecture, literature, film, consumer culture) and because I insist that the film text be read in the architectural context of its reception rather than as an autonomous aesthetic product, my method may be labeled new historicist. While I will not reject this designation out of hand, I would like to point out the nearly contradictory relation of the methodological principles of new historicism to the argument I am making about film and televisual spectatorship.

I argue that a key component of what has been deemed "the postmodern condition" is found in the simultaneous acknowledgment and disavowal of the idea that the past cannot be reconstituted as it was; and I describehow film and television spectatorship has produced a new relation to the past. The past is, now, inexorably bound with images of a constructed past: a confusing blur of "simulated" and "real."

Debates in Film Studies

The massive flood of literature on postmodernism and postmodernity which spewed forth from conferences and museum shows of the 1980s—a discursive tide that inundated academic journals and art publications—has had relatively little impact on theoretical or historiographic accounts of the cinema.17 As we will see, if the term postmodern has entered into film studies or film criticism, it has been as postmodernism —a stylistic term or aesthetic symptom. I will argue that beyond a mere marking of contemporary style, cinematic and televisual spectatorship produces a subject fluidity that bears remarkable similarity to descriptions of postmodern subjectivity. This subjectivity is produced by spectatorship itself—whether or not the style per se is postmodern.

The recent work of a variety of film scholars (Doane [1988], Mayne [1988], Gaines [1989], Petro [1989], Musser [1990], and Hansen [1991]) has argued for widening the focus of social and psychic accounts of cinematic spectatorship to include advertising, illustrated print journalism, fashion, and other modes of "screen practice": in short, the everyday.18 To continue this revision of conceptual models of spectatorship, it is necessary to include new forms of reception in this age of the VCR and the multiplex cinema.

Taking this route will produce a rather different history, one defined not through the changing forms of film styles and conventions of cinematic representation (modeled on the familiar paradigms of art history) but rather a history that, instead, traces the cultural contexts of these commodified forms of looking and of the experiences of spatial and temporal mobility which were first converted into "commodity-experiences" in the nineteenth century. Here I follow work by Kern (1983) and Schivelbusch (1977, 1983) on nineteenth-century transformations of time and space and work by Williams (1982), Bowlby (1985), and Peiss (1986) on women and the origins of consumer culture.19

In the nineteenth century, the commodity-experience marketed the subjective spatial and temporal fluidities that have become primary components of contemporary cinematic and televisual spectatorship. Standardized repeatability was an implicit feature of photography and of the cinema, and its features are more pronounced in the exhibition practices of repertoryand multiplex cinemas, VCRs, and various forms of television spectatorship. Hence, I argue, we must consider the subjective consequences of reseeing films outside of their historical context and measure the consequences of a contemporary spectatorship that occupies equally the public sphere of the shopping mall and the private domestic sphere of the VCR.

It is here that a discussion of the post to modernism and modernity poses a unique dilemma to film historiography. Although each of the arts may produce a certain timelessness, film and televisual media do so with the aid of powerful reality effects, propagating a subjectivity that posits "presence" in a virtual elsewhere and elsewhen.

In the last two decades, as the discipline of film studies has emerged as a fixture in the academy—complete with graduate programs, as well as museums dedicated to its past—technological advances have transformed our access to this history. As the VCR has become a common household appliance, as cable television networks (TNT, TMC, AMC, TBS) acquire and exhibit Hollywood archives, the cinematic past is accessible in ever more direct ways. Even though cinematic spectatorship itself produces viewing experiences that are not temporally fixed, films have even more profoundly lost their historical identity. In this regard, the ascendancy of film historical discourse (and, by extension, the growing academic discipline of film studies) has worked to mask the very loss of history that the film itself has incurred.20

As Michel Foucault noted, in a statement about television and cinema as "effective means . . . of reprogramming popular memory ":

people are shown not what they were but what they must remember having been . . . . Since memory is a very important factor in struggle . . . if one controls people's memory, one controls their dynamism.21 (emphasis added)

Anton Kaes has pinpointed this historiographical concern in the conclusion to his recent study of postwar West German filmmaking, From Hitler to Heimat: The Return of History as Film:

A memory preserved in filmed images does not vanish, but the sheer mass of historical images transmitted by today's media weakens the link between public memory and personal experience. The past is in danger of becoming a rapidly expanding collection of images, easily retrievable but isolated from time and space, available in an eternal present by pushing a button on the remote control. History thus returns forever—as film.22 Kaes demonstrates how postwar German films reconstitute our sense of the historical past. As the past is dissolved as a real referent and reconstituted by the cinematic images that displace it, Baudelaire's cynical prophesy about photography's "loathing for history" meets Jameson's dystopic symptomatology of history's "disappearance."

The book that follows conducts a paradoxical history, one that is designed to restructure cinematic history along a different set of questions: a history of the timelessness produced by cinematic spectatorship, as well as an analysis of the impact on gender and subjectivity of such a interminably recycled, ever-accessible past.

Feminist Studies

As I have indicated, I rely on the flbneur and the work of Benjamin to organize the diverse changes in contemporary aesthetic experience and reception. But, at the same time, pursuing a feminist corrective to previously gender-blind work, I introduce the flbneuse—the female urban subject, strikingly absent from accounts of modernity. The urban mobilities first available to women in modernity are, I will argue, a crucial determinant of the transformations of the role of gender in post modernity.

Although much of feminist film theory has focused on the cinematic representation of the female body and voice, I join the historians and theorists who insist we consider the context for these representations, not only the relation to advertising, publicity, and fashion but also the effects of cinematic and televisual spectatorship on the psychic and social construction of gender in the context of the commercial and the everyday.

As my "Post-Script" attests, debates about postmodernism often took the discursive place of feminist debates in the late 1980s. This serves as a reminder that, as an ever-potent product of postmodern culture, theoretical discourse is not innocent, and if we consider the wider cultural mise en schne, every discourse also has its (even if unwitting) political function.

The "P" Word

Even though cultural historians may have already begun to write a history of the term postmodern, 23 this is not my project here. Yet one cannot enter into a discussion of the postmodern without commenting on the discursive field that has trivialized the word. To date, a persistent factor in the cultural debate about the postmodern is the revulsion the very term invokes. That the terminology of postmodernism has been scavenged by the discourses of advertising and the mass media without regard to itsideological underpinnings may be the worst recuperation of the word—now forced to sell the style of the signifier without the referent. The word postmodern has become a slippery polyseme defined largely through its (over)usage: its semantic inflation has increased in direct proportion to the deflation of its referent. As was once the case with the term modern, post modern seems to be invoked to simply refer to the "new."24

As the debate continues about the cultural and ideological valences of the postmodern, the term itself has been turned into a stylistic clichi, a fitting example of how discourse about the object becomes submerged in discourse of the object .25 Dick Hebdige, theorist of subcultures, has acutely noted:

When it becomes possible for people to describe as "postmodern" the decor of a room, the design of a building, the diegesis of a film, the construction of a record, or a "scratch" video, a TV commercial, or an arts documentary, or the intertextual relations between them, the layout of a page in a fashion magazine or a critical journal, an anti-teleological tendency within epistemology, the attack on "the metaphysics of presence," a general attenuation of feeling, the collective chagrin and morbid projections of a post-War generation of Baby Boomers confronting middle age, the "predicament" of reflexivity, a group of rhetorical tropes, a proliferation of surfaces, a new phase in commodity fetishism, a fascination for "images," codes and styles, a process of cultural, political or existential fragmentation and/or crisis, the "decentering" of the subject, an "incredulity towards metanarratives," the replacement of unitary power axes by a pluralism of power/discourse formations, the "implosion of meaning," the collapse of cultural hierarchies, the dread engendered by the threat of nuclear self-destruction, the decline of the University, the functioning and effects of the new miniaturized technologies, broad societal and economic shifts into a "media" and "consumer" or "multinational" phase, a sense (depending on who you read) of "placelessness" or the abandonment of placelessness ("critical regionalism") or (even) a generalized substitution of spatial for temporal coordinates—when it becomes possible to describe all those things as "postmodern" (or more simply, using current abbreviation, as "post" or "very post") then it's clear we are in the presence of a buzzword.26

In short, the word postmodern has acquired a semiotic instability that almost mimetically reproduces its denotation of indeterminacy. The mire of debate about its history and definition has become infused with many of the epistemic assumptions that the theorists of the postmodern themselves would challenge—the ontology of history, the denotative certainty of definition.

Postmodern has been defined as the end of the Enlightenment (Lyotard) and as the site of the Enlightenment's completion (Habermas); it has been seen as radical pluralism, multiculturalism, centralized marginality (Spivak) and as a culture of decentered subjectivity (Derrida); it suggests texts that refer only to texts and authentic experiences replaced by simulations (Baudrillard). The categories of antimodern, late modern, postmodern blur into one another as the debate rages. At this juncture, one is tempted to demand that the use of the word postmodern be regulated or, better, that it be dropped from our vocabularies altogether.27 But when all the semantic dust settles, the valence of the modifier post signifies its position vis-'-vis the root word modern , indicating either its end or its continuance in a new configuration.

If film scholars have reacted to the term postmodernism with a justifiable distrust, it has been because the term was eagerly adopted with the sort of quick "applicationism" that marks intellectual insecurity in any field. In both academic and journalistic film criticism, the "post" word has been used without questioning the concept of modernism or modernity which is its assumed base, or interrogating the problematic oversights in adopting the blithe label postmodern .

A Road Map

Beyond this introductory foyer, the architecture of this book is arranged in four chapters—chapters 1 and 2 on modernity; chapters 3 and 4 on postmodernity—linked by "passages" or brief excursuses. These transitional texts are designed to buttress the otherwise abrupt ellipse between the end of this century and the end of last. These three passages illustrate the movement of my argument through a range of interdisciplinary examples from literature, architecture, and film: "Passage 1" is through a literary text (Zola's Au Bonheur des Dames [1883]); "Passage 2" is through film texts (The European Rest Cure [1904]; Paris Qui Dort [1924]; La Jetie [1962/1964]; Alphaville [1965]; The Time Machine [1960]; "Passage 3" is through architectural examples (the Bradbury Building [1893], the Musie d'Orsay [1900/1987], the Westside Pavilion [1985]).

In chapter 1, "The Mobilized and Virtual Gaze in Modernity: Flbneur/Flbneuse," I discuss the historical contexts for the emergence of the cinema and its development from precinematic "mobile" and "virtual" gazes. Ipropose the dioramic and panoramic spectator as alternatives to the model of structured visuality so frequently associated with modernity—the panoptic gaze. A new social figure—the flbneuse—appeared in public spaces made possible by the new configurations of consumer culture.

Chapter 2, "The Passage from Arcade to Cinema," examines the architectural and social contexts for the mobilized and virtual gaze, and its instrumentalization as a commodity-experience. As I've already indicated, Benjamin's unfinished Das Passagen-werk is a key and prophetic text on modernity and urban experience. Benjamin considered the passage as a threshold for time's passing. His writing on photography and the cinema, mechanical reproduction and the loss of aura, and the impact of an "unconscious optics" emphasizes the cinema's unique temporality. Hence, I return to arcades, department stores, and exhibition halls to examine the reconfigurations of spatial and temporal mobility; from the timeless spaces where the "mobilized" gaze was situated to the time machines that extended its mobility in "virtual" fashion.

Chapter 3, "Les Flbneurs/Flbneuse du Mall," parallels the historical movement of chapter 2 (arcades and modernity, malls and postmodernity). The shopping mall is the contemporary extension of the nineteenth-century passage, offering a site for flbnerie and for a mobilized gaze instrumentalized by consumer culture. This chapter begins with a brief history of the shopping mall and argues that the development of the shopping mall has produced an architectural analogue to the cinematic and televisual apparatus. In this chapter, I also distinguish between the principles of classical spectatorship and contemporary challenges to this model. This chapter also begins a discussion of participant-based "virtual reality" technologies—computer-generated "Toon Town" worlds with no original referent—which are designed to produce the "virtual" effects of the real.

In chapter 4, "The End of Modernity: 'Where Is Your Rupture?'" I argue that even though the term postmodern has been used to describe aesthetic symptoms, it can be more profitably used to consider the social formation of postmodernity . As I've indicated, in film studies postmodernism has come to be used as a descriptive term for a genre or a period style without an account of how the cultural configurations of postmodernity have been profoundly affected by the very instruments of cinema and television. Cinematic and televisual spectatorship has produced a new form of subjectivity, I argue, a subjectivity that is inherently produced by the apparatus, whether or not the style is "postmodern."



In a brief conclusion, "Spending Time," I summarize the book's argument by supplying the Vidiothhque de Paris as a final illustration. In the Post-Script, "The Fate of Feminism in Postmodernity," I address the role of debates about postmodernity which do not engage in questions of gender. If this early discourse about postmodernity is analyzed, it becomes apparent that these discussions "feminized" postmodernity as an unchartable terrain, as enigmatic as that other other—femininity. In this way, debates about postmodernity may have served an unacknowledged ideological agenda—that of displacing feminist debate.

Notes on Terms Used

Modernity: I assume a definition of modernity as a social formation coincident with late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century industrialization and urbanization. Although these changes had their first impact on capitalist, cosmopolitan cities (Paris, Berlin, London, New York, Chicago, Moscow), the rate of development (and decay) was uneven.

Subject: The category of the subject, as Derrida reminds us, is itself a questionable vestige of logocentrism. My use of the term provides an indication of my theoretical premises in the linguistic, semiotic, and psychoanalytic theories that have inflected contemporary film theory. In general terms, film theories that use the term subject contain an implicit critique of versimilitude in representation and approach the cinema as a construction that produces subject ivity. Lacanian-inflected film theory assumes that subjectivity is structured through visuality. The Lacanian "mirror-phase" implies that the subject only sees itself as whole, elsewhere . Although subject-oriented apparatus theories have shifted the debate away from style, theorists have continually questioned the relation between the apparatus and specific textual strategies.

The gaze: I use the term gaze to describe mobilized and virtual visuality. While "the male gaze"—aligned with voyeurism and with fetishism—was an early staple of feminist film theory, the gendering of the gaze remains an historical problematic. By questioning the historical paradigms of the panoptic gaze, I wish to reclaim the gaze as a different form of visuality and to continue to interrogate the psychic and physiological relation between body and psyche. Benjamin formulates a description of the gaze of the flbneur ("der Blick des Flaneurs") which relied on physical and psychical mobility.28 The common contemporary connotation of the "gaze" relies on the (more panoptic) Lacanian description of the "inside-out" structure of a gaze where the subject only sees itself being seen.29





Continues...

Excerpted from Window Shopping by Anne Friedberg Copyright © 1994 by Anne Friedberg. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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