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[Xmca-l] Re: Imagination;semiotic mediation
One of the reasons why Eisenstein is so well known to us today is that
Lenin saw D.W. Griffith's fascist recruiting film "Birth of a Nation" and
realized the potential of the medium immediately (unfortunately, so did
Woodrow Wilson, and the Democrats launched a national campaign around the
film which probably led to tens of thousands of lynchings). Griffith was
one of the very first to realize that you could superimpose "thinking"
sequences on visual sequences in much the same way that subtitles impose
verbal sequences upon them (he says he got the idea from
Dickens). Eisenstein, who was at the time a member of Bukharin's
"Proletkult", got the message: he'd served in the Red Army and had somehow
learned some Japanese, and he was near Luria, Vygotsky, and Marr, who ran
the centre for the study of oriental languages where Volosinov and Medvedev
worked. After a visit by Kabuki artists to Moscow, he became convinced that
Asian languages were "montage": that is, they were a "unit", a Gestalt",
that consisted of a VISUAL semantic component and a PHONETIC realization.
(This is not always true, but it is true of the majority of Chinese
As Vygotsky points out, a lot of our words function a little like this: if
you say, for example, "blackbird", "stand on solid grounds", or
"stubby-pawed vulgarian" there is a more or less visual element ("black",
"stand..."ground", "stubby-pawed") and a more or less semantic element
("bird", "solid", "vulgarian"). Which is primordial? Which
predominates? Even though language is a (typically) auditory medium, most
languages tend to descriptions (of space and even of time) in a VISUAL mode
(so for example we express time spatially when we use prepositions like "at
eight oh seven", "on Tuesday morning", and "in late March"). But of
course perception, or affective perception, is really only the beginning of
word meanings; word meanings develop, and you can even argue that it is
precisely because language is typically an auditory medium that it has such
developed synaesthesic properties. The problem, for Eisenstein, was to
make sure that the visceral, visual components do not overwhelm these other
properties but instead serve to intensify and to concretize and to
channel them towards higher verbal meanings, which is why--perhaps under
Vygotsky's influence--he quit Proletkult and began to consider more
seriously how problems of verbal story-telling are handled in literature.
And the task of Griffith, and later of Riefenstahl and of Donald Trump is
to do precisely the opposite: to use the visceral, visual components to
overwhelm the audience's sense of civility, courtesy, humanity. I
was living in the UK when John Major, who was the son of an circus
performer and an unsuccessful manufacturer of porcelain garden
gnomes, succeeded Margaret Thatcher, the proud daughter of a Lincolnshire
grocer, as head of the Conservatives and as Prime Minister. Now, for the
most part, the UK does observe a kind of "political correctness" about
people's class backgrounds, only it is not called that and people don't
sneer at it as they do in the USA: the usual term, when it is explicitly
referred to at all, is civility, courtesy or just common decency. But
during a press conference John Major dropped a ballpoint pen and bent over
to pick it up, and from their vantage point in the gallery some of the
liberal press observed that he tucked his shirttails into his underpants.
The Guardian cartoonist, Steve Bell, portrayed the prime minister with his
underpants OVER his trousers and his shirt for years and years, until
people completely forgot why. In protest, and out of working class
solidarity, I have tucked my shirt-tails into my underwear ever since.
On Tue, Mar 29, 2016 at 3:35 AM, Ed Wall <email@example.com> wrote:
> Very insightful. At least,that is my perspective.
> > On Mar 27, 2016, at 3:41 PM, David Kellogg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> > Greg:
> > We are taught to think that Trump is boorish and uncultured and from the
> > wrong side of the Hudson because of his hair-trigger reactions. How is it
> > possible to teach us to do this--WITHOUT noticing that this very teaching
> > reliably informs us that the whole playground game started with a taunt
> > from Senator Rubio? (It was, actually, a very well aimed taunt, designed
> > bring out the ease with which this potential president can be jerked
> > around, one that suggests strategic knowledge of Trump's greatest
> > weaknesses; it was not, as Rubio himself claimed, something he just
> > stumbled into by accident in the desperate flailing of his dying
> > We are taught to think that this is all highly regrettable. How is it
> > possible to teach us to do this--WITHOUT noticing that the very people
> > teaching this are the ones who created this carnival atmosphere where
> > serious discussions are impossible--mostly these hard, unfunny 24-7
> > shows which are always so hard up for their hard, unfunny material,
> > relying, again and again, on the puerile devices of profanity and
> > industrial quantities of canned laughter? How not to notice that people
> > most "shocked, shocked!" are precisely the people who have littered
> > politics with what are essentially unserious, unsocial, non-political
> > lifestyle issues? (Not just the comedy shows. which have been the death
> > comedy as well as the death of politics, but the Evangelical Christians,
> > and above all the 24-7 news people who have to talk about politics all
> > and all night without ever really talking class or social issues of any
> > kind.)
> > Here's what I notice. We notice Trump's boorishness and not Rubio's just
> > because Trump is bigger than Rubio (I am not referring to their male
> > endowments). We notice vulgarity in others but not in ourselves because
> > when I do it on national television and you laugh at it in the privacy of
> > your own home, it's just not so "in your face" for either of us.
> > I notice that white working people have been successfully taught to ask
> > that if Trump's so dumb, how come he's rich? I notice that the simple job
> > of the media is to demonstrate that although he is rich, he is actually
> > rather insecure, thin-skinned, infantile, and his chain is easily jerked.
> > This shouldn't be that difficult, and it's only mildly subversive of
> > politics in the USA, since there is only the slightest suggestion that
> > people who are rich are actually not particularly mature, trustworthy,
> > or deserving of life-and-death powers over you and your children.
> > But then in order to do this very simple task, the media now argue that
> > although he's rich, and although he's from the East Coast, he's from the
> > wrong side of the river, and his playground demeanour shows it. In other
> > words, although he's rich, he's really poor.
> > No wonder Trump is so popular!
> > David Kellogg
> > Macquarie University
> > On Mon, Mar 28, 2016 at 2:39 AM, Greg Thompson <
> > wrote:
> >> Should we say anything about the fact that nobody has mentioned the
> >> envy" moment of one of the recent Republican debates (the one where
> >> politics was raised to new lows)?
> >> (you should really check out the original debate - really amazing stuff)
> >> Nor has anyone said anything about the hailing hand gesture done at some
> >> Trump rallies (note: this is a Trump-supporting page, but no, I'm not a
> >> Trump supporter, it had the least ads of any of the descriptions I could
> >> find):
> >> Did everyone just assume that this is common knowledge? Or did people
> >> know about these hand-y origins?
> >> And if you didn't know about this, does knowing this deepen the meaning
> >> the image?
> >> and a recent Daily show segment where Black Trump responds to the New
> >> Yorker cover:
> >> -greg
> >> On Sat, Mar 26, 2016 at 11:36 PM, Annalisa Aguilar <email@example.com>
> >> wrote:
> >>> BTW:
> >>> Eugenics has the Greek etymology of eu- meaning "good" or "well," and
> >>> genos, meaning "race," "stock," "kin," that is... "well-born".
> >>> This may relate to the short fingers, which also makes a reference to
> >>> mating, and also possibly, just possibly sterilization.
> >>> The image becomes cleverer every second!
> >>> :)
> >>> Kind regards,
> >>> Annalisa
> >> --
> >> Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
> >> Assistant Professor
> >> Department of Anthropology
> >> 880 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
> >> Brigham Young University
> >> Provo, UT 84602
> >> http://byu.academia.edu/GregoryThompson