The latest in this year’s series of ARTHEMIS presentations, which took place last Friday, February 28, brought us a talk by David Rodowick called “Perfectionism’s Ironic Transport (Reading Now Voyager After Cavell).” ARTHEMIS also hosted an exclusive workshop with Rodowick around his latest book Elegy for Theory, on Saturday morning.
In his 90 minute talk, Rodowick presented a cavellian reading of Now, Voyager (Irving Rapper, 1942). Rodowick used this particular film to discuss the concepts of irony and moral perfectionism as seen in films within the genres of “remarriage comedies” and “melodrama of the unknown woman” (both subgenres defined by Cavell). To be sure, the topic of this presentation was decidedly philosophical. Although some members of the audience took issue with such an abstract discussion, I found it refreshing to see that there is still a place, and a demand, for theoretical or philosophical questions in the field of film studies.
The seminar that took place on Saturday morning was around Rodowick’s latest book, Elegy for Theory. Attendees got a sneak peek at some as of yet unpublished work by Rodowick and the group discussed some of the questions that were brought up in the presentation on Now, Voyager and in the book itself. What was particularly interesting was the interaction between all the attendees. This was not a hierarchical lecture, with Rodowick simply answering questions from the audience in a top-down manner. Rather, Rodowick promoted a group discussion, and was quick to finish his introductory comments in order to let everyone get their word in.
I also got to chat with Rodowick afterward, where we talked about the way in which emerging scholars should position themselves within their field. My concern, lately, is that there seems to be a strong pressure for us to align ourselves in ways that can easily be categorized. As someone who would like to go on to work on philosophical questions, it was very reassuring to hear Rodowick tell me that there is still a place for theory in film studies. Of course, theory is but a fraction of what is done in our field, and there will always be a need for other types of writing, but as someone interested in philosophy, it’s nice to know that there will always be more work to be done on the subject. Rodowick is an extremely nice and brilliant man, and I’m happy I got to meet and talk with him.
The next ARTHEMIS talk will be by Veronica Pravadelli (Università degli Studi Roma Tre) and is entitled “Classical Hollywood Cinema and Film Studies: Historicizing Theory, Theorizing History.” It will take place March 14, 16h00 in MB 2,270.