Session 2: Excrementality (Tuesday 7th June)

‘Excrementality’ in the movies: Can Hollywood be ‘incoherent’?

Dr. Dan Varndell (Southampton and Winchester)

6-8pm, Tuesday 7th June
Senate House, room G37 (ground floor)

Every Hollywood movie, asserts Andrew Britton, in whatever genre, “must at least allow for a conservative reading" (1991:201). However, since Robin Wood coined the term "excremental city" to describe so-called "incoherent" texts (like Taxi Driver) that refuse any meaning (conservative or otherwise), Film Theory has been guilty of ignoring certain "excremental" readings of popular cinema. “Postmodernity", write George Ritzer and Douglas Goodman, “is "in" the modern in another sense altogether. It is something like the food of the modern, but that part of the food that is indigestible, which cannot be easily incorporated into the system of modernity" (2002:151n). After well over a century of forms, perhaps cinema is no longer the modern machinery through which our postmodern desires are indulged.

This seminar seeks to explore cinema as a model for cultural repression using the metaphor of the flushing toilet, and investigates Hollywood "incoherence" as its excremental remainder, provoking several questions for discussion: Can Hollywood films be incoherent, or must they always allow for a conservative meaning? Can Wood's cinematic excrescences be considered the postmodern "bones" stuck in the throat of the modern itself? This provocation encourages an open and fluid discussion of excremental Hollywood, inviting cinematic examples from big-budget Blockbusters to Vietnam War films to engage fully the question of where our cultural waste really goes in the movies.

Recommended reading:

- Corrigan, Timothy, 1991. "The Incoherent Text", in A Cinema without Walls: Movies and Culture After Vietnam (New Brunswick & New Jersey: Rutgers University Press), Chapter 2 - "Illegible Films: Texts Without Secrets," pp. 51-79.

- Wood, Robin, 1986. "Illegible Films: Texts without Secrets", in Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan (New York, Chichester & West Sussex: Columbia University Press), Chapter 4 - "The Incoherent Text: Narrative in the 70s," pp. 46-55.

All welcome, any discipline.

N.B. Those of a mild disposition should note that toilet humour is probable.

1 comment:

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