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Aesthetics of Irritation. Auteur Theory, Melodramatic Mode and the Politics of Critical Subjectivity

abstract Incorporating approaches from media studies, psychology, sociology, semiotics, cultural theory and philosophy, this Visual Culture Studies project addresses implications of a pictorial/iconic turn in western culture by analyzing the following central concepts: melodrama as moving from a cinematic genre to a cultural mode (Brooks, Elsaesser, Williams); cinema auteurism as a lens for subversive intervention of mainstream visual narrative practices in the Modernist tradition; the relationship between visual media, subjectivity and agency as intersecting at a point of socio-political potential.
With an analysis of subject formation in relation to the kinds of stories occidental cultures circulate about themselves, this project historically traces a parallel dual ontology of the Anglo-American and European Modernist tradition along with the Franco-American melodramatic tradition, situating both as reactionary developments to socio-psychological conditions arising from post-Enlightenment secularization, for which a genealogy is then developed. Subsequently, the theory of an aesthetics of irritation investigates how certain contemporary filmmakers radically set their visual narrative style in juxtaposition to habitualized narrative reception and formations of melodrama in social fields (Bourdieu). This is done in a manner that not only functions as social commentary on cultural patterns of cognitive and emotive reception in relation to psychic investment and subject formation; it also enacts a provocation encouraging viewer awareness and consideration of the viewer’s involvement in such practices of collective sense-making on the basis of a Manichean dialectic of good and evil. Such a provocation functions as a visual-cultural intervention that attempts to maintain the political field as a field of non-reductive social antagonism (Ranciere, Zizek). In its consideration of subjectivity and paradigmatic visual signifying practices, this investigation moves beyond conventional film studies to encompass a greater scope of Cultural Studies, and in so doing, places itself at the center of the debate on how the emerging field of Visual Culture Studies is to be shaped.

This research project includes a series of lectures on the Bachelors and Masters levels, conference papers, journal publications, and a dual-authored monograph to be published in English.
   
keywords visual semiotics, melodrama, aesthetics, viewer subjectivity, political potential of (mainstream) cinema
   
partner
type fundamental research project
status completed
start of project 2010
end of project 2012
principal KWA-KIM
additional informations
topics visual semiotics, melodrama, aesthetics, viewer subjectivity, political potential of (mainstream) cinema
methods Methods of Critical Cultural Studies and Film/Media Studies
contact Jörg Metelmann