One of the ideas that I wanted to get across on Tuesday was that culture doesn’t simply “reflect” the world in a direct, unproblematic manner– i.e., as mere “content”. In any case, “reflection” is just a metaphor. It’s a way of saying that culture acts like a mirror. But why can’t it act as a prism or a pistol or a sponge?
Cultural forms are historical. To read form (i.e., to engage in formal analysis) is to suggest that the how of a text is as important as the what of a text.
This notion is something like what Zizek has in mind when he argues that Children of Men functions according to the principle of anamorphosis. It’s by looking from an odd angle– focusing on the background of the visual field rather than the foreground– that the socio-political “truth” of Cuaron’s film becomes apparent. In order to understand this fully we need to know a few film terms, such as mise-en-scene. But there are other formal elements in play here as well: framing, camera movement, sound, etc.
Finally, tomorrow we’ll watch this remarkable film text by Mark Boulos: