Poignant Immobility: Temporality in the Works of Barthes, Lispector, Proust and Tarkovsky Open Access

Kasel, Jacob (Fall 2018)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/7p88ch529?locale=en


Roland Barthes’s 1980 text Camera Lucida explores the emotive potentials of the photographic medium in light of the recent death of Barthes’s own mother. In this work, Barthes claims that when photographs are poignant to us, they are “without culture” and leave us unable to “transform grief into mourning,” indicating that no cultural explanation for our pain can assuage it (90). Barthes’s ideas serve as a constant inspiration and reference point in my analysis of how visual images can generate intellectually and culturally uncapturable pain. I examine this concern across literary and cinematic examples. I begin with an analysis of Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector’s 1973 work Água Viva and its focus on the capacity of language to capture, almost photographically, the present moment of experience. I then look at another literary text concerned with our experience of the present moment and its relation to the past: French writer Marcel Proust’s seven volume Á la recherche du temps perdu. I pay special attention to the role of still and moving images in Proust’s depiction of our vision of the present and the past, which, as I discuss, exists in constant relation to our desires. Finally, I move further into a discussion of moving images by examining Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1975 film Mirror and the constant haunting presence of absence in it. By putting Barthes’s ideas into conversation with those of these three artists, I argue that our relation to the past is intricately intertwined with the ability of stillness and movement in our vision to generate unrepresentable sensorial experiences.

Table of Contents

Introduction (1-4)

I.              Seeing with the Body: Photography and Writing in Clarice Lispector’s Água Viva and Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida (5-23)

II.            Moving Stillness: the Photographic and Cinematic Potentials of Writing in Proust’s Á la recherche du temps perdu (24-48)

III.          Ghostly Reflections in the Mirrors of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Mirror (49-72)

Conclusion (73-76)

Appendix (77-111)

Bibliography (112-115)

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