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"Animé d'un regard": The Crisis of Televisual Speed in Racine Timothy Murray Si Ie Baroque a souvent été rapporté au capitalisme, c'est parce qu'il est lié à une crise de la propri été, qui apparaît à la fois avec la montée de nouvelles machines dans le champ social et la découverte de nouveaux vivants dans l'organisme. —Gilles Deleuze, Le Pli: Leibniz et le baroque WHAT WILL BECOME of Racine in the new digital age? Is it possible that the digital and virtual machinery of the twenty-first century will unveil new living beings in the Racinian organism? Or might the thought of future obsessions with the virtual, digital speed, and electronic simulacra, distract us from the more deliberate pace of neoclassical thought? The latter, more cautious position would have been endorsed by René Descartes, who opens his Discourse on Method by wagging his finger at the penchant of modernity for speed and progress: Les plus grandes âmes sont capables des plus grands vices, aussi bien que des plus grandes vertus , et ceux qui ne marchent que fort lentement peuvent avancer beaucoup davantage, s'ils suivent toujours le droit chemin, que ne font ceux qui courent, et qui s'en éloignent.1 Parting ways with the cautionary wisdom of Descartes, I would like to propose that not only speed itself but also the contemporary visual apparati of entertainment (produced and consumed as rapidly as possible) will play a vital role in the study of Racine for the next millennium. If students continue to visit classrooms to imbibe in the poetic delights of Racine, they are likely to bring with them as much sensitivity to the speedy acquisition of knowledge via cinema, video, and computer technology as comfort in the slow meanderings of close reading and textual exegesis. What should be the response to such a Baroque crisis through which traditional subject matters and methods of pedagogy are displaced by the growth of new machines in the social field? It is not unusual these days to hear colleagues in a wide array of disciplines express mistrust of the new media culture and its enthusiastic embrace of graphic visuality. A widely-held view maintains that growing academic interests in the media, the image, and the cultural tend to dull students to the nuances of writing, rhetoric, and reading. At issue is something of a textual Vol. XXXVIII, No. 2 11 L'Esprit Créateur crisis and antivisual bias which, we need to remember, has a complex philosophical history deriving from Plato's Republic and Aristotle's Poetics. Were adherents of this position to adopt a slogan from Racine, they could choose Thésée 's self-imposed prescription that concludes Phèdre: "fuir la sanglante image" (5.7.1606). Many specialists in drama, moreover, bemoan the legacy of theatrical representation , which has been bequeathed to the next millennium by the adherents of televisual spectacle. In a recent interview, for example, the dramatist and champion of women's writing, Hélène Cixous, compares the depth of theatricality to the aesthetic flatness of the newer media: "Il y a de fausses scènes, celles de télévision, par exemple—, qui ne nous apportent rien."2 Voiced by Cixous is a widespread pedagogical concern with die false scenes of representation to which our students are drawn—scenes which tend to be associated most readily by early modern scholars with the televisual emphasis on image and speed at the expense of the deep critical pause of textual reflection. Put succinctly, the new millennium will continue to confront the humanist with the ghastly specter of what Jean-François Lyotard has called "1'inhumain," the technology-driven intellectual cyborg who can scan and recycle an image much more readily than s/he can pause in pensive reflection over texts. There is no doubt that the new infatuation with digital culture and its televisual legacy would appear to many colleagues to lead us far afield from the depth and texture of neoclassical theater. For instance, while characterizing this theater as "rien qu'une Image," the Abbé d'Aubignac grounds his notion of the dramatic image in a richly layered comparison with painting...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 11-22
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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