Special Issue "Memory, Affect, and Cinema"

A special issue of Arts (ISSN 2076-0752). This special issue belongs to the section "New Media".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 April 2019).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Russell J. A. Kilbourn
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of English and Film Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, ON N2L 3C5, Canada
Interests: film theory; memory studies; adaptation (film and literature); transmediality; affect theory; W.G. Sebald

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The intersection of memory and cinema is a robust field of research, but the confluence of memory and affect remains underexplored. While memory and emotion are deeply interconnected, affect and emotion are distinct. Affect theory needs to take account of memory studies, particularly in relation to aesthetics and ethics, on the one hand, and to ideology and politics, on the other.

More inclusive and more 'primal' than emotion, affect in the context of memory manifests on a spectrum with nostalgia at one end and trauma at the other. In-between lies everything from melancholic detachment to the most ethical empathy. Today's fascination with affect short-circuits critical reflection, reducing Deleuze's complex treatment (in Cinema 1) of affect in the movement-image. Film-memory scholars need to think critically about the opposing of thought and emotion, image and body, signification or mediation, (or representation) and affective pre-cognition. For Ruth Leys, affect theory in its post-Deleuzean form is characterized by its resistance to representation and the privileging of consciousness. Theorists of affect are interested primarily in the traumatic-affective effects of media on the viewer. According to Cathy Caruth, where trauma negates the possibility of conscious representation (and therefore memory), the body registers the unspeakable experience affectively, in a manner that precedes representation. Ironically, this somatic registration, manifesting involuntarily in flashbacks and dreams, when translated cinematically demands visual representation. (Indeed, there would be no psychological 'flashback' were it not for cinema's photographic origins.) As in trauma studies, the representability of traumatic experience is a key question for film studies.

At the other end of the memory/affect/cinema spectrum is nostalgia. Apart from spectator nostalgia for specific historical periods or styles, discussions of the intersection of film and memory have generally focused on commercial genre films rather than art cinema. Nostalgia continues to be invoked in a pejorative sense, influencing popular thinking about memory. 'Memory is not commonly imagined as a site of possibility for progressive politics', writes Alison Landsberg. 'More often, memory, particularly in the form of nostalgia, is condemned for its solipsistic nature, for its tendency to draw people into the past instead of the present'. Svetlana Boym distinguishes between 'restorative' and 'reflective' nostalgia, however, where the latter allows for a combination of critical irony and melancholic longing. Restorative nostalgia, however, is a constitutive feature of many contemporary popular cultural narratives. Rather than an historical consciousness that might allow for individually and socially progressive political action, postmodern pop culture gives us collective memory as often as not packaged in nostalgic terms. Among the first to connect the contemporary fascination with memory and archives with affect and emotionality, Pam Cook re-values nostalgia in relation to both objective 'History' and subjective memory, substituting for Jameson's 'nostalgia film' the transnational 'nostalgic memory film'. This allows us to see that such films can have a usefully heuristic—and therefore potentially emancipatory—if not a properly political impact upon the spectator.

This guest-edited Special Issue aims to provide a cutting-edge perspective on contemporary scholarship examining the intersection of memory and affect in cinema, in terms of either the nostalgic or the traumatic end of the spectrum—or, most productively, from both at once. We invite 5000–10000 word scholarly articles on the theme by 14 December 2018. Potential topic areas could include:

  • nostalgia in/and film
  • trauma in/and film
  • reflective nostalgia as 'antidote' to traumatic memory
  • the memory-productive vs. the memory-reflexive film (Astrid Erll)
  • restorative vs. reflective nostalgia (Boym)
  • from Holocaust studies to trauma theory (Caruth)
  • from trauma theory to affect (Leys)
  • from 'nostalgia film' to the transnational 'nostalgic memory film' (Cook)
  • nostalgia in/and the 'heritage film' (Andrew Higson)
  • melodrama, memory, affect
  • Deleuze, the affection image, melodrama
  • the affection image and classical film style
  • the affection image and art cinema?
  • post-cinematic affect and memory (Shaviro)
  • post-affective cinema and memory
  • trauma and the possibility of (visual) representation
  • the 'universalization of trauma' and postmemorial 'affiliative' affect in the film viewer-as-victim (Richard Crownshaw)
  • second-order trauma (as negative correlative of postmemory)
  • the psychology and/or neuroscience of memory and cinematic viewing.

Dr. Russell J. A. Kilbourn
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Arts is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • memory and film
  • affect and film
  • nostalgia in/and film
  • trauma in/and film
  • melodrama, memory, affect
  • melancholia, memory, affect
  • postmemory in/and film
  • Deleuze and the affection image
  • post-cinematic affect and memory
  • post-affective cinema and memory
  • trauma and (the possibility of) representation
  • second-order trauma (as negative correlative of postmemory)

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

Article
Retro Aesthetics, Affect, and Nostalgia Effects in Recent US-American Cinema: The Cases of La La Land (2016) and The Shape of Water (2017)
Arts 2019, 8(3), 87; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts8030087 - 09 Jul 2019
Viewed by 2700
Abstract
Nostalgia and retro are phenomena of modernism and modernization that are currently booming. This goes for political decision-making processes as much as for popular culture where retro aesthetics is the dominant mode of design: Both appear driven by ‘longings for a time that [...] Read more.
Nostalgia and retro are phenomena of modernism and modernization that are currently booming. This goes for political decision-making processes as much as for popular culture where retro aesthetics is the dominant mode of design: Both appear driven by ‘longings for a time that never was.’ While research on nostalgia and retro abound, nostalgia still remains a vague and undertheorized concept seemingly identical with retro. Engaging the ways in which Damien Chazelle’s 2016 movie La La Land and Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water of 2017 produce and interrogate affects, this essay shows how film allows us to make distinctions that the proliferating research on nostalgia and retro often fail to deliver. As we zoom in on how both films reference iconic moments in film history, it becomes evident that retro aesthetics operates in distinctively diverse manners. While La La Land interrogates cinema’s “nostalgia for nostalgia”, The Shape of Water reclaims nostalgia as a mode of social bonding. In this way, both movies foreground how the dynamics of nostalgia, at best, moves forward, not back. Film studies, in turn, can shed considerable light on how both nostalgia and retro work—and why they sell so well. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Memory, Affect, and Cinema)
Article
Louder Than Films: Memory, Affect and the ‘Sublime Image’ in the Work of Joachim Trier
Arts 2019, 8(2), 55; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts8020055 - 23 Apr 2019
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1230
Abstract
“We have to believe that new images are still possible”. This remark by Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier during a recent event in Oslo entitled ‘The Sublime Image’ speaks to the centrality in his work of images, often of trauma, that aspire to the [...] Read more.
“We have to believe that new images are still possible”. This remark by Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier during a recent event in Oslo entitled ‘The Sublime Image’ speaks to the centrality in his work of images, often of trauma, that aspire to the condition of photographic stills or paintings. A hand against a window, cheerleaders tumbling against an azure sky, an infant trapped under a lake’s icy surface: these can certainly be read as sublime images insofar as we might read the sublime as an affect—a sense of the ineffable or the shock of the new. However, for Trier, cinema is an art of memory and here too, this article argues, his films stage an encounter with the temporal sublime and the undecidability of memory. Offering readings of Trier’s four feature films to date which center on their refraction of memory through crystal-images, the article emphasizes the affective encounter with the films as having its own temporality. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Memory, Affect, and Cinema)
Article
“The Man of the Hour”: Hawthorn(e), Nebraska and Haunting
Arts 2019, 8(2), 53; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts8020053 - 17 Apr 2019
Viewed by 1125
Abstract
This paper provides a close reading and critical unfolding of central themes and motifs in Alexander Payne’s acclaimed 2013 comic ‘road movie’ Nebraska. It focuses on three key issues: (1) the symbolic significance of hawthorn as a threshold between different worlds (Hawthorne, [...] Read more.
This paper provides a close reading and critical unfolding of central themes and motifs in Alexander Payne’s acclaimed 2013 comic ‘road movie’ Nebraska. It focuses on three key issues: (1) the symbolic significance of hawthorn as a threshold between different worlds (Hawthorne, Nebraska being the former hometown to which father and son make a detour); (2) the notion of ‘haunting’ in relation both to ‘importuning’ memories besetting the central characters and to particular sites of remembrance to which they return; and, (3) how the film’s pervasive mood of melancholy is subject to repeated interruption and punctuation by comic utterances and put-downs. In presenting us with a reluctant ‘gathering of ghosts’, a veritable phantasmagoria, the film articulates a particular sense of nostalgia, of a ‘homesickness’ understood here not in the conventional meaning of a longing to return to a forsaken ‘home’, but rather as a weariness and wariness at the prospect of revisiting familiar haunts and reviving old spirits. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Memory, Affect, and Cinema)
Article
Representing Rape Trauma in Film: Moving beyond the Event
Arts 2019, 8(1), 8; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts8010008 - 09 Jan 2019
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2571
Abstract
Trauma theorists foreground the unrepresentability of trauma; however, with modern innovations in visual representation, such as the photograph and cinema, depictions of trauma have begun to circulate across different mediums for a variety of audiences. These images tend to problematically present the traumatic [...] Read more.
Trauma theorists foreground the unrepresentability of trauma; however, with modern innovations in visual representation, such as the photograph and cinema, depictions of trauma have begun to circulate across different mediums for a variety of audiences. These images tend to problematically present the traumatic event rather than the effects of trauma, such as traumatic memory. Specifically, some contemporary Hollywood popular films and television series that include rape as their subject matter often include a rape scene that can evoke affects such as disgust or empathy, and while these affects can last the duration of the film, they fail to shift popular discourses about rape because affect is more productive when it focuses on effects instead of events. As trauma studies has shifted to memory studies in the Humanities, and rape has become more prominent in popular culture through the circulation of personal testimony on social media and memoir, depictions of rape in cinema have slowly started to change from presentations of rape scenes to representations of rape trauma that highlight different affects, such as shame. Using Monster (2003), Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), Room (2015), and the television series, 13 Reasons Why (2017) and Sharp Objects (2018) as case studies, this paper argues that, for an audiovisual depiction of rape to shift popular discourses about rape, it would have to function rhetorically to widen the cultural understanding of rape trauma beyond the event, and demonstrate that rape trauma should be understood as part of the personal, unconscious, cultural, and visual mediation of traumatic memory. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Memory, Affect, and Cinema)
Article
On Dissipation: Goodbye, Dragon Inn and the “Death of Cinema”
Arts 2018, 7(4), 91; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts7040091 - 27 Nov 2018
Viewed by 1101
Abstract
This paper explores the cinematic meta-theme of the “death of cinema” through the lens of Taiwanese director, Tsai Ming-liang’s 2003 film, Goodbye, Dragon Inn. In the film, the final screening of the wuxia pian classic, Dragon Inn, directed by King Hu, [...] Read more.
This paper explores the cinematic meta-theme of the “death of cinema” through the lens of Taiwanese director, Tsai Ming-liang’s 2003 film, Goodbye, Dragon Inn. In the film, the final screening of the wuxia pian classic, Dragon Inn, directed by King Hu, provides a focal point for the exploration of the diminished experience of institutional cinema in the post-cinematic age. Using the concept of “dissipation” in conjunction with a reappraisal of the turn to affect theory, this paper explores the kinds of subjective experiences that cinema can offer, and the affective experience of cinema-going itself, as portrayed in Goodbye, Dragon Inn. More specifically, in theorizing the role of dissipation in cinema-going, this paper explores the deployment of time and space in Goodbye, Dragon Inn and how it directs attention to the bodily action of cinema-going itself. The result is a critique of the possibilities of post-cinematic affects, rooted in an understanding of the way that late-capitalism continues to dominate and shape the range of experiences in the contemporary moment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Memory, Affect, and Cinema)
Article
Cinematic Amnesia as Remembering: Coming Home (2014) and Red Amnesia (2014)
Arts 2018, 7(4), 83; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts7040083 - 21 Nov 2018
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1576
Abstract
This article examines the trope of amnesia—the crisis of memory—in two recent Chinese-language films dealing with traumatic memories of the Cultural Revolution and its aftermath: Zhang Yimou’s Coming Home (Guilai, 2014) and Wang Xiaoshuai’s Red Amnesia (Chuangru zhe, 2014). Cinematic representation of real [...] Read more.
This article examines the trope of amnesia—the crisis of memory—in two recent Chinese-language films dealing with traumatic memories of the Cultural Revolution and its aftermath: Zhang Yimou’s Coming Home (Guilai, 2014) and Wang Xiaoshuai’s Red Amnesia (Chuangru zhe, 2014). Cinematic representation of real and symbolic amnesia, I argue, can be an affective way to overcome historical amnesia, both institutionalized by the Party-state and privatized by individuals. By exploring the dynamics between forgetting and remembering at both collective and individual levels, we can reach a deeper understanding of the profound impact of the Cultural Revolution and its present-day repercussions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Memory, Affect, and Cinema)
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