This talk connects the writings of Hannah Arendt and Stanley Cavell to questions of thinking: what it is and how it appears in the world and on film. For both
This talk connects the writings of Hannah Arendt and Stanley Cavell to questions of thinking: what it is and how it appears in the world and on film. For both philosophers, thinking may be understood as a form of leave-taking, roaming, even of straying; the mind wanders while the body stays put. That is, thinking is a form of errancy. Arendt argues that thinking, which deals with ‘invisibilities and is itself invisible’, poses a challenge to representation (there is, she writes, a ‘scarcity of documentary evidence’). In contrast, Cavell turns to the camera’s ‘knowledge of the metaphysical restlessness’ in the fidgety body whose mind is at work. When it catches the body in thought, cinema may even ‘prove thinking’, albeit through the body’s least intelligent activity. Whereas Arendt is concerned that thinking defies representation, Cavell worries that with the arrival of cinema, the mind, betrayed by the body, is in a state of perpetual visibility and subject to misunderstanding (a concern related to his career-long interest in ‘the problem of other minds’). In his reading of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Cavell explains how cinema phenomenalizes the errancy of thought and dramatizes errors of interpretation. This talk takes up the idea of errancy as a property of thinking in cinematic environments from Capra to Wiseman and Peele.
Jennifer Fay is Professor of Film and English at Vanderbilt University where she also directs the Program in Cinema & Media Arts. She is the author or co-author of three books, most recently Inhospitable World: Cinema in the Time of the Anthropocene (2018). Her current book project is tentatively titled ‘Sincerity and the Media of Appearance’. During Spring of 2020 she is a Research Fellow at Cinepoetics — Center for Advanced Film Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin.