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3. Comedy, Theatricality, and Counter-History

Marcia Landy Indiana University Press ePub

Comedy, not tragedy, admits the disorderly into the realm of art; the grotesque depends upon an irrational focus. . . .

Is it any wonder that along with our wars, our machines, and our neuroses we should find new meanings in comedy, or that comedy should represent our plight better than tragedy? For tragedy needs the “noble,” and nowadays we seldom can assign any usable meaning to “nobility.” The comic is now more relevant, or at least more accessible than the tragic.

—Wylie Sypher, Comedy (1983, 201)

COMEDY HAS NOT merited the same attention accorded to epic, tragic, and dramatic forms as a medium for addressing history (Salmi 2011). Notable exceptions to this neglect are Marx, Nietzsche, Foucault, and Deleuze, who have insisted on the power of parody, masquerade, disguise, and carnival to unsettle versions of history by entertaining the power of nonsense and paradox to alter connections to the past by way of the present and future. Conceptions of history and the role of humor are central to clarifying my conception of counter-history that challenges conventional forms of historical narration through a reconsideration of the body (corporeality) to arrive at a rupture with the past. Comedy has the potential to engage with the body as “that which it plunges into or must plunge into, in order to reach the unthought, that is life” and, through humor, enables learning about “what a non-thinking body is capable of, its capacity, its postures” (Deleuze 1989a, 189). This position is consonant with aspects of Nietzsche’s thought on history and Foucault’s attempt to articulate the relationship between history and actuality that are closely tied to evolving conceptions about the care of the body often expressed through forms of comedy, theatricality, choreographed movement in forms of dance, phatic modes of communication expressed through language and music, human and other animal sounds, and physical gestures. The responses educed from comedy derive less from identification with the character and more from the incongruity of automatic responses to familiar situations removed from conventional expectations of accounting for behavior and action. Foucault’s conception of “effective history” offers one form of counter-history, since his definition involves inverting traditional conceptions of the past to regard them not from superior heights but from a shortening of “vision to those things nearest to it—the body, the nervous system, nutrition, digestion, and energies. . . . [Effective history] unearths the periods of decadence and if it chances upon lofty epochs, it is with the suspicion—not vindictive but joyous—of finding a barbarous and shameful confusion” (Foucault 1977, 155).

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8. Edward Castronova: Games, Economics, and Policies

David S. Heineman Indiana University Press ePub

EDWARD CASTRONOVA BEGINS HIS BOOK EXODUS TO THE Virtual World with a discussion of Star Trek’s holodeck that, at first glance, seems very similar to Eugene Jarvis’s discussion of that fictional technology in chapter 3 of this book. Castronova explains that it is a “perfect simulation room” that “allows users to enter into a deeply accurate simulation of any environment, from the Wild West to the surface of Pluto” (3). He begins that book with a discussion of the holodeck because, like Jarvis, he sees in it a model for where games might go and what they might do to and for the people who play them. Castronova’s perspective, however, offers a kind of cautionary reply to Jarvis’s enthusiasm. If the holodeck was ubiquitous, he offers, “no starship would do anything at all” (3). Instead, there would be a dramatic shift in what people did with their time, where they did these things, and what the value of that time was considered to be. Simulation, in the form of games, would introduce dramatic social change.

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5 Dennis Allen · “The Madness of Slavoj Žižek”

JONATHAN PAUL EBURNE Indiana University Press ePub

5

THE MADNESS OF SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK

Dennis Allen

There are literally thousands of clips of Slavoj Žižek available on the Internet, but perhaps the most entertaining one is a YouTube excerpt from Astra Taylor’s succinctly entitled 2005 documentary, Žižek! Posted as “Philosophy from a Bed View (by Žižek),” the clip seems singularly apt for our purposes if only because, in the process of defining the project of philosophy, Žižek touches on one of the key questions that this collection of essays is intended to address: What is the relation between reason and unreason? Sliding across a series of binaries, Žižek articulates the difference between “true” philosophers and “madmen” as the difference between metaphysics and hermeneutics. His meditations are worth quoting at some length:

What is philosophy? Philosophy is not what some people think, some crazy exercise in absolute truth, and then you can adopt, you know, this skeptical attitude: “We, through scientists, are dealing with actual, measurable, solvable problems. Philosophers just ask stupid metaphysical questions and so on, play with absolute truth, which we all know is inaccessible.” No, I think philosophy’s a very modest discipline. Philosophy asks a different question, the true philosophy. How does a philosopher approach the problem of freedom? It’s not, “Are we free or not? Is there God or not?” It asks a simple question which would be called a hermeneutic question: “What does it mean to be free?” So this is what philosophy basically does. It just asks: “When we use certain notions, when we do certain acts and so on and so on, what is the implicit horizon of understanding?” It doesn’t ask these stupid ideal questions: “Is there truth?” No. The question is: “What do you mean when you say this is true?” So you can see it’s a very modest thing, philosophy. Philosophers are not the madmen who search for some eternal truth and so on and so on.

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Chapter 6 Filming the Central Powers’ Drive across Russian Poland

James W Castellan John Libbey Publishing ePub

It is difficult to impress a twenty-first century audience, especially a western one, with the importance of the siege and capture of Przemysl in Poland. Even at the time in 1915, the British and the Austro-Hungarians made fun of its name. Mary Roberts Rinehart said about the fortress: “Before I went abroad I had two ambitions among others. One was to be able to pronounce Ypres; the other was to bring home and exhibit to my admiring friends the pronunciation of Przemysl. To a moderate extent I have succeeded with the first. I have discovered that the second one must be born to.”1

The campaigns around Przemysl in 1914–1915 have given it the apt description of “The Stalingrad of World War I”. Przemysl was the center of the Austro-Hungarian defense system in Poland, protecting the crossings between the marshes of the San – Dniester River line, and so protected Hungary.2

World War I started when the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia on 28 July 1914. Austria-Hungary’s reluctance to declare war on Russia can be judged by the Austrians’ delaying the declaration of war until 6 August, and then only under extreme German pressure. The Central Powers now had a choice. Conrad von Hötzendorff, the not very competent Austro-Hungarian head of the armed forces, first wanted to fight Serbia, and then deal with Russia later. (It was said that Conrad could only stay mad at one country at a time). Germany, threatened by the Russian Army in East Prussia, wanted Austria to concentrate on Russia and deal with the Serbians later. They also made the not insignificant point that the Serbian campaign could be kept on hold, but the far more imposing Russian Army, which had mobilized much faster than it was thought possible, could not. So from the very beginning of the World War, the Austro-Hungarians were already fighting a war on two fronts and at odds with their partner, Germany.

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Part II. 1946–1951

Colin Crisp Indiana University Press ePub

PART II

1946–1951

31. La Bataille du rail

Battle of the Rail

Filmed late 1944–1945; released 27 February 1946 85 min, b&w

Dir René Clément; Prod Coopérative Générale du Cinéma Français; Scr Clément and Colette Audry; Cinematog Henri Alekan; Music Yves Baudrier; Sound Constantin Evangelou; Edit Lucien Desagneux; Act Jean Clarieux, Jean Durand, and Léon Pauléon (railway workers), Tony Laurent (Camargue), Lucien Desagneaux (Athos), and Robert Leray (stationmaster).

In the three years following the liberation, a large number of scripts were elaborated evoking heroic French participation in the Resistance. This was the first of them to be released, and one of the best. Among those that followed, the most watchable are Les Démons de l’aube, Le Père tranquille (#36), La Bataille de l’eau lourde, Le Silence de la mer (#56), and Jeux interdits (#74), while the most successful by far were this one, Mission spéciale, La Bataille de l’eau lourde, Jéricho, and Le Bataillon du ciel. Most of those made immediately after the war benefited from the respect accorded by the government and the public to men of the left, and particularly to the communists who had formed the bulk of the resistants, but once Cold War sentiment shifted to the right, there was a noticeable retreat in the number of such scripts, followed by a surprising resurgence in the years 1959–1960.

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