Warped Minds: Cinema and Psychopathology 9789048522941

An illuminating investigation on the depiction of madness from early horror films of the 20s and 30s to the proliferatio

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Table of contents :
Warped Minds
Table of Contents
1. The Story of Attention: Toward a Dynamic Model of the Self
2. Photography and the Construction of Psychopathology at the Fin de Siècle
3. Cinema and Psychoanalysis
4. Multiple Personality and the Hollywood ‘Multiple’ Film
5. Paranoia and the Geopolitical Conspiracy Thriller
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Warped Minds

Warped Minds Cinema and Psychopathology

Temenuga Trifonova

Amsterdam University Press

Cover illustrations: Temenuga Trifonova, from her photo series Faces Cover design: Kok korpershoek, Amsterdam Lay-out: Crius Group, Hulshout Amsterdam University Press English-language titles are distributed in the US and Canada by the University of Chicago Press. isbn 978 90 8964 632 3 e-isbn 978 90 4852 294 1 (pdf) e-isbn 978 90 4852 295 8 (ePub) nur 670 © T. Trifonova / Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam 2014 All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this book may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the written permission of both the copyright owner and the author of the book.

This book is dedicated to my mother

Acknowledgements I would like to thank the Welcome Library Collection in London, the Bibliothèque national de France, and the Photography Special Collection at the New York Public Library for providing me with access to various materials in their archives and collections. I would also like to thank the editors of the following scholarly journals for letting me reproduce some of the material in chapters 2, 4 and 5 here: Chapter 2: ‘Photography and the Unconscious: The Construction of Pathology at the Fin de Siècle,’ CTheory: Theory beyond the Codes 005, 9/9/2010. Chapter 4: ‘Multiple Personality and the Discourse of the Multiple in Hollywood Cinema,’ The European Journal of American Culture, 29 (2) 2010: 145-173. Chapter 5: ‘Agency in the Cinematic Conspiracy Thriller,’ SubStance 41 (3) 2012: 109-126.

Table of Contents

Introduction 11 1. The Story of Attention: Toward a Dynamic Model of the Self


2. Photography and the Construction of Psychopathology at the Fin de Siècle 69 3. Cinema and Psychoanalysis


4. Multiple Personality and the Hollywood ‘Multiple’ Film


5. Paranoia and the Geopolitical Conspiracy Thriller


Notes 227 Bibliography 267 Filmography 275 Index 281

Introduction Toward a Therapeutic Model of Psychopathology ‘To Define True Madness,’ the first episode in the BBC series Madness, traces the origins of our ideas of madness back to the belief in divine possession that is to be found in a wide range of mythologies. With the advent of Christianity, the idea of invisible forces became visualized in terms of a struggle between the forces of Good and Evil competing for control of individual human souls. The Christian belief that one would be held accountable in the afterlife for one’s deeds in this life contributed to the processes of growing introspection that were already underway, and to the development of a notion of personhood as self-consciousness. In the nineteenth century, theologians and doctors competed with one another as they tried to explain the origin of madness as either supernatural or natural, the work of the devil/witchcraft or a physical condition. Although theological views became less and less influential, until they were eventually discredited by late nineteenth-century French neurologists who retrospectively diagnosed cases of possession as cases of hysteria, our postsecular world still retains traces of pre-secular ideas of madness (such as psychic readings, for example). The numerous physiognomic studies of the insane that emerged in the second half of the nineteenth century were all based on the assumption that temporary facial expressions leave permanent traces on the face that can be categorized and used for diagnostic purposes. Thanks to its assumed ‘objectivity’, the new medium of photography was considered the most appropriate diagnostic and descriptive tool in the study and treatment of the insane. In an interview included in ‘In Two Minds’, another episode of the Madness series, Sander Gilman (author of the 1996 study, Seeing the Insane) observes that what is striking about this period is not so much the representation of insanity, but ‘the repertoire, recurring and consistent, of art historical traits ‒ the style, the conventions, not the subject.’ The blossoming of psychiatric illustration contributed to the creation of a taxonomy of mental illnesses and of types of people ‘most likely’ to suffer from them. Physicians were trained to see their patients through the prism of such conventionalized visual representations. With the rise and spread of psychoanalysis, visual representations of madness and mental illness lost their initial appeal. It was not until the 1960s, however, that the medical model of mental illness was completely discredited, as various scholars, psychologists and psychiatrists, most notably Ronald Laing (The Divided


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Self, 1960), argued that madness is a reaction of a normal person to the strains imposed on them by social institutions, including the family. The revolt against the medicalization of the insane (see, for example, the work of Franko Basaglia) as a form of control over socially unmanageable people (belonging to marginal social, racial and gender groups) was linked to other forms of rebellion in the turbulent 1960s. The changing image of psychiatrists, who came to be seen as complicit in the medicalization of the insane by providing scientific justification for their social exclusion, was representative of a growing ambivalence in defining the causes of mental illness as purely physical rather than social and thus fundamentally political. Not surprisingly, the film Psychiatry: An Industry of Death (2006) presents the history of psychiatry ‒ from the father of American psychiatry, Benjamin Rush, and his ‘greatest invention’, ‘the Iron Maiden chair’, through the introduction by Ugo Cerletti in 1936 of electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) and lobotomy, to the pharmacological revolution in the 1950s ‒ as a history of institutions controlling and alienating social outcasts. Through a series of interviews with a number of scholars (Ty Colbert, Andrew Scull, Joseph Melling, Thomas Szasz, and Lee Coleman), the film traces the various attempts by psychiatrists to gain credibility by promoting the medical/biological model of mental illness, thereby disguising the real nature of their profession with the language of medicine. Recently there have been attempts to revive the medical model of madness and mental illness by demonstrating the continuity between late nineteenth-century theories of madness and recent findings in the field of neuropathology. In 1877 the psychologist Henry Maudsley argued that the lack of visible evidence of cerebral differences between ‘the insane’ and ‘the normal’ does not rule out the existence of such differences. Recent experiments involving ‘sucking the blood out’ of a brain and comparing it to a schizophrenic’s brain reveal shrinkage of the brain, thereby confirming late nineteenth-century theories of insanity as the result of brain disease. Indeed, some experimental psychiatrists believe one specific gene (the nature of which remains obscure) is responsible for what makes us human; if this turns out to be true, the difference between ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ could be attributed to variations in this gene. More importantly, such variations would explain not only the difference between healthy and psychotic people but also the variability between healthy people. Research has shown that the origins of psychoses relate particularly to those characteristics ‒ such as cerebral asymmetry ‒ associated with the specifically human capacity for language (that is, the symptoms arise as confusions between thought and speech and through the abnormal attachment of meaning to perceived

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speech). If insanity turned out to be the result of a malfunctioning nervous system, that would make the behavior of healthy people equally dependent on, and determined by, the proper functioning of their nervous systems. In short, as the film ‘In Two Minds’ suggests, the attacks on the medical model of madness simply reflect our reluctance to accept those findings of modern neuropathology that challenge the notion of free will. The conflicting attitudes towards madness come to a head in an episode of another BBC series called State of Mind, entitled ‘What Is Madness?’, in which Professor Anthony Clare moderates a debate between Colin Blakemore (a professor of physiology), Jonathan Glover (a philosopher), Joan Busfield (a professor of sociology), and a psychiatrist, on the question of whether madness should be considered a disease of the brain, a strategy for dealing with the world, or an altered state of perception. The psychiatrist warns against the increasing tendency to medicalize all aspects of human distress: artificial categories and classifications do not help the distressed, he insists; indeed, it is dangerous to assume that any form of distress needs psychiatric help. Countering the psychiatrist’s refusal to use diagnostic labels, Blakemore maintains that diagnosis is necessary because it identifies causes and allows for clinical treatment; to oppose categorization, he argues, is to oppose understanding. For the psychiatrist, however, madness has a social meaning: it is a strategy for dealing with certain difficult social situations. Reluctant to identify biological or physical causes, which are often stigmatizing, he helps patients develop better strategies for dealing with certain situations. In other words, he views madness as an ‘inappropriate’ copying strategy that the patient must replace with another more appropriate or efficient one. In response, Blakemore reminds us that the medical and social models of madness and mental illness might be reconciled if one were to recognize that the relationship between the brain, mental states and behavior is not unidirectional. In fact, the dominant view among neurobiologists is that the brain is a highly plastic and adaptive organ that changes constantly depending on the input, and that these changes are biologically determinable. Rather than going back to a 1960s type of antirational and anti-positivistic ‘looseness’, Blakemore concludes, we ought to adopt an interactive model of the mind, recognizing that psycho-social events may cause changes in the brain and vice versa. The debate outlined above sums up the long history of conflict between medical and social models of madness.1 Since the 1970s, the medical model of madness has enjoyed increasing popularity, shifting the focus of research from social to biological factors. The increasing pathologization of everyday life, evidenced by the massive expansion of the Diagnostic and Statistical


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Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the growth of the pharmaceutical industry and the increasing pathologization of emotions into medical conditions, has put inordinate emphasis on marginalized ‒ in terms of class, gender and race ‒ individuals, ignoring questions of institutional and social disorder.2 The introduction of new technologies for studying the brain, along with breakthroughs in pharmaceutical research and drug treatments, are among the main reasons for the increasing popularity of the medical model.3 The popularity of this medical model is also reflected in the increasing interest in cognitive theories of film that map cognitive processes onto brain mechanisms. Neuroscientif ic studies use brainimaging techniques, especially functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), to explore the psychological and biological underpinnings of our experiences while watching movies. For example, studies in which brain activity is recorded while individuals watch moving pictures aim to reveal which regions of the brain become activated during emotional scenes. According to Arthur Shimamura, the main predecessors to psychocinematics ‒ that is, to the informational approach to perception, memory and thought, viewing the mind in terms of mental processes involved in various computational stages of processing, such as input, storage and output ‒ are: 1) Gustav Fechner’s 1876 Primer of Aesthetics (a psychophysical approach to hedonic judgments); 2) Münsterberg’s 1916 The Photoplay (with its central idea that movies simulate our mental states rather than reproducing reality); and 3) Rudolf Arnheim’s 1933 Film as Art (in which Arnheim defends film as an autonomous art form based on its failure to render an exact copy of reality). Both the medical model of madness and psychocinematics are premised on an idea whose rejection by Freud marked the beginnings of psychoanalysis ‒ the idea of brain localization. 4 Although Foucault’s History of Madness (1961) is usually credited with inaugurating the backlash against medical models of madness, the substitution of an ontological for an epistemological approach to psychopathology was already implicit in Freud’s psychoanalytic writings and in the writings of one of the forerunners of cognitive film theory, Hugo Münsterberg. Freud (in The Interpretation of Dreams, 1900), Münsterberg (in The Photoplay: A Psychological Study, 1916), and later Foucault (in Mental Illness and Psychology, published in 1954, seven years before History of Madness), emphasized the importance of studying an individual’s style of organizing experience ‒ temporally and spatially ‒ over studying the content of experience or its causes and effects, and both used the ‘abnormal’ style of structuring time and space to explain the ‘normal’ functioning of the psychic apparatus.

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In The Interpretation of Dreams (first translated by A.A. Brill in 1913), Freud set out to demonstrate that, contrary to popular opinion, dreaming is not ‘a somatic process’ but a ‘psychic activity’ that lends itself to interpretation. After dismissing the existing methods of dream interpretation ‒ the symbolic method and the cipher method ‒ as ‘worthless’, Freud proposed his own method, which treats the dream as ‘something built up, a conglomerate of psychic formations’ (16) that can be reconstructed and traced back to a pathological idea in the patient’s memory. Drawing an analogy between dreaming and madness, both of which are defined as the fulfillment of an unconscious wish, Freud posited psychopathology as essential to the study of general psychology: If there exists a system of the Ucs. [the Unconscious] … the dream cannot be its sole manifestation; every dream may be a wish fulfillment, but there must be other forms of abnormal wish-fulfillment as well as dreams. And in fact the theory of all psychoneurotic symptoms [including hysterical symptoms, for instance] culminates in the one proposition that they, too, must be conceived as wish-fulfillments of the unconscious. (422 my italics)

On the basis of his observation of the persistent wish to sleep, part of the system of the Pcs. [the Preconscious], Freud concluded that ‘throughout the whole of our sleep we are just as certain that we are dreaming as we are certain that we are sleeping’ (424), as evidenced by the experience of certain dreamers who, while dreaming, retain the knowledge that they are dreaming. Given the analogy between dreaming and madness, there is thus no stable reference point from which one can establish conclusively that one is sane or mad. Both dreams and madness provide evidence of a highly sophisticated level of intellectual activity and the continuation of psychic life, rather than its disintegration, despite the seemingly aimless, random nature of the flow of ideas in the dream/madness state. Freud recognized that he was facing a contradiction: ‘On the one hand, we have made it appear that dream-thoughts proceed from perfectly normal psychic activities, but on the other hand we have found among the dream-thoughts a number of abnormal mental processes, which extend also to the dream-content [e.g. condensation, distortion, displacement]’ (444). He solved the contradiction by reminding us that since the dream serves as a substitute for thoughts derived from our daily life, all the qualities we attribute to our normal thought-processes ‒ logic, coherency, meaningfulness, intentionality ‒ are repeated in the dream-thoughts. All dream-thoughts have their origins in


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normal mental processes, but many of our thoughts remain ‘unremarked by consciousness’, continue to be elaborated unconsciously, and are completed in the dream-thought. When we encounter these thoughts in the dream they strike us as abnormal and illogical, whereas the only conclusion to be drawn from this is that ‘the most complex mental operations are possible without the cooperation of consciousness’ (445). The point is that the act of becoming conscious ‘depends upon a definite psychic function ‒ attention ‒ being brought to bear’ (445). The absence of attention ‒ and, thus, the absence of consciousness ‒ does not mean the absence of normal mental activity; it only means that attention (and consciousness) are secondary acts, unconsciousness and dreaming being the primary ones: ‘The unconscious is the true psychic reality. … Consciousness, once all powerful, is nothing but a sense-organ for the perception of psychic qualities’ (463, 465). What we term abnormal psychic processes, leading to a psychopathological formation ‒ condensation, intermediary ideas, loose connection between ideas, and contradictory thoughts ‒ are actually part of the normal dream-work that produces the dreams of both the normal and the mentally disturbed. Signif icantly, Freud distinguished between the normal content of both dream-thoughts and the thoughts of the insane from the abnormal treatment to which these thoughts are subjected: the abnormality in the mental activity of the insane lies not in the content of their thoughts, or in the significance they attribute to that content, but only in the seemingly incorrect, abnormal, or illogical treatment or elaboration of these thoughts. By ‘transferring to the dream the conclusions urged upon us by hysteria’ (455), Freud identified the production of hysterical symptoms as the model for studying normal psychological processes such as dreaming: These ‘incorrect’ processes are the primary processes of the psychic apparatus; they occur whenever ideas abandoned by the preconscious cathexis are left to themselves and can be filled with the uninhibited energy which flows from the unconscious and strives for discharge. There are further facts, which go to show that the processes described as ‘incorrect’ are not really falsifications of our normal procedure, or defective thinking, but the modes of operation of the psychic apparatus when freed from inhibition. (456)

The dream, and by analogy madness, is not a pathological phenomenon: ‘the psychic mechanism utilized by the neuroses is not newly-created by a morbid disturbance that lays hold of the psychic life, but lies in readiness in the normal structure of our psychic apparatus’ (458 my italics).5

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While Freud ‘borrowed’ the production of hysterical symptoms to explain dream-work, ultimately collapsing the distinction between the supposedly ‘pathological’ structuring of time and space by the psychotic mind and the analogous structuring of time and space in the dream-work of normal people, in his analysis of the psychology of film-viewing, Münsterberg posited the impression of reality created by films as virtually indistinguishable from the impression of reality we experience in daily life. Münsterberg thus suggested that whether one is perceiving reality or viewing a film is irrelevant, and that the failure to distinguish reality from fantasy is therefore not a ‘prerogative’ of the psychotic mind, but a characteristic of the normal mind as well. Münsterberg begins his study by warning the reader that his main aim is not to explore ‘the physical means and technical devices’ of cinema but ‘the mental means’ (7). Particularly illuminating, for our purposes, is a thought experiment that Münsterberg proposes to explain our perception of depth and movement. He asks us to imagine that we are sitting in the orchestra of a real theatre and that we see before us the stage set up as a room with furniture and people. Imagine, he continues, that a large glass plate is put in the place of the theatre curtain, so that we now see the stage through the glass: For our seeing it would make no difference whether the stage is actually behind the glass plate or whether all the light rays which pass though the plate come from the plate itself. … This is exactly the case of the screen. If the pictures are well taken and the projection is sharp and we sit at the right distance from the picture, we must have the same impression as if we looked through a glass plate into a real space. (22)

Our perception of real space, Münsterberg implies, is indistinguishable from our perception of a projected space because, as he goes on to argue, in both cases depth and movement are not in things; rather, we invest things with them. For instance, the flatness of the screen is just ‘an objective part of the technical physical arrangements’ of cinema, not ‘a feature of what we really see in the performance of the photoplay’ (22): ‘Depth and movement alike come to us in the moving picture world not as hard facts but as a mixture of fact and symbol. They are present and yet they are not in the things. We invest the impressions with them’ (30). Although Münsterberg observes that in the case of theatre or reality, depth and movement are actually perceived, whereas in the case of film they are perceived only mentally ‒ it is only a suggestion of depth and movement, because the essential conditions


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for the true perception of depth and movement are lacking ‒ his example of the glass plate clearly privileges the mental perception of depth and movement over the physiological conditions of actual perception, even in the case of theatre and reality. It is precisely because cinema is capable of producing the mental experience of depth and movement despite the lack of actual perception that it deserves to be called a new art, and one that surpasses theatre. Münsterberg ends his study by warning his readers about the dangers of the photoplay: It has been reported that sensory hallucinations and illusions have crept in; neurasthenic persons are especially inclined to experience touch or temperature or smell or sound impressions from what they see on the screen. … The more vividly the impressions force themselves on the mind, the more easily must they become starting points for imitation and other motor responses. (75)

Similar to Freud, who claims that dreams do not indicate the destruction of psychic life but its continuation in the sleeping state, where it obeys different laws of elaboration of ideas, Münsterberg maintains that the neurasthenic or psychotic patient’s inability to distinguish reality from fantasy ‒ which they share with the over-excited film viewer, who believes the events on the screen to be real ‒ is inherent in the ability of our normal mental functions, such as attention, memory, imagination, or causal thinking, to interface with technology. Technological apparatuses, such as the film camera, are capable of reproducing our mental functions in the absence of the essential material conditions for perception: for example, the close-up objectifies the mental act of attention while the flashback objectifies the mental act of remembering.6 Film simply takes advantage of one of the constitutive aspects of our normal psychic function ‒ its reproducibility. Paraphrasing Freud ‒ who insists that ‘the psychic mechanism utilized by the neuroses is not newly-created by a morbid disturbance that lays hold of the psychic life, but lies in readiness in the normal structure of our psychic apparatus’ (458) ‒ Münsterberg proposes that the psychic mechanism utilized by film is not newly-created (by the inventors of the film apparatus), but lies in readiness in the normal structure of our psychic apparatus. It is because the normal mind obeys its own laws, rather than the laws of the outside world, that film is possible in the first place. Our psychic apparatus (which includes our mental functions of attention, memory, and causal thinking) is naturally ‘set up’ to interface with technological apparatuses, such as film;

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in other words, the film apparatus can reproduce our mental functions and project them back to us as if they existed ‘outside’ us, disembodied. In short, what appears to be a ‘pathological’ dissociation of our mental functions from themselves does not ‘afflict’ the psychotic mind only: this ‘pathology’ of dissociation is actually constitutive of the ‘normal’ psychic apparatus by virtue of its inherent reproducibility. Foucault opens Mental Illness and Psychology (1954) with the claim that ‘the root of mental pathology must be sought not in some kind of ‘metapathology,’ but in a certain relation, historically situated, of man to the madman and to the true man’ (2).7 Like organic medicine, mental medicine proceeded by constituting a symptomatology and a nosography of mental illness, a method based on two assumptions: first, that ‘illness is an essence, a specific entity that can be mapped by the symptoms that manifest it, but that is anterior to them and, to a certain extent, independent of them’ (the essentialist prejudice); and second, that illness can be conceived ‘in terms of botanical species’ (the naturalist prejudice) (6). Gradually, the notion of mental illness as a ‘natural species’ was abandoned because it failed to resolve the problem of psychosomatic totality. As medical men and philosophers began to acknowledge the overall character of pathological processes, they realized that the essence of pathological processes is best understood as an overall response on the part of the organism to ‘stress’ from the outside world. Mental illness came to be seen as a disease of adaptation rather than a foreign body in relation to the organism; it ‘had reality and meaning only within a structured personality’, a conclusion that led to the distribution of psychic disorders into two main categories: psychoses (in which the whole personality is affected) and neuroses (in which only a part of the personality is affected) (7, 8). If mental illness constitutes a maladjusted response to the individual’s particular situation, rather than being a ‘natural form’ pre-existing the situation, it cannot be studied with the same methods of analyses applied to illnesses of the body: Now, psychology has never been able to offer psychiatry what physiology gave to medicine: a tool of analysis that, in delimiting the disorder, makes it possible to envisage the functional relationship of this damage to the personality as a whole. The coherence of a psychological life seems … to be assured in some way other than the cohesion of an organism; the integration of its segments tends toward a unity that makes each possible, but that is compressed and gathered together in each: this is what psychologists call, in the vocabulary that they have


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borrowed from phenomenology, the significant unity of behavior, which contains in each element ‒ dream, crime, gratuitous gesture, free association ‒ the general appearance, the style, the whole historical anteriority and possible implications, of an existence. (10-11)

Foucault’s phenomenological re-conceptualization of mental illness rests on 1) the recognition of the indivisible temporal unity of an existence (an individual’s entire past informs their present as well as their future behavior and modes of response/adaptation to their particular situation), and 2) the acknowledgement of the particularity of an existence, which permeates and colors all its manifestations (Foucault speaks of ‘the style’ of an existence, which colors all our conscious and unconscious actions, from our dreams and our involuntary gestures to our premeditated or unpremeditated crimes). What is particularly striking about Foucault’s re-definition of mental illness as a generalized pathological response to the individual’s particular situation is that it mimics the nature of psychosis, for Foucault defines psychosis in exactly the same terms, as a generalization of a particular context beyond its initial limits. This inherent recursiveness of the ontological approach to psychopathology, as we shall see, gives rise to a number of aporias that remain unresolved in Psychology and Mental Illness. However blurred the line between the normal and the pathological in medicine might have become, it still exists insofar as the normal and the pathological are both inscribed within the organism’s physiological possibilities: ‘just as the illness is inscribed within normal physiological possibilities, the possibility of cure is written into the process of the disease’ (11). In psychiatry, however, this distinction is impossible to make, since it is more difficult, if not impossible, ‘to distinguish and to unite morbid damage and adapted response’ (12), presumably because the individual’s psychological possibilities cannot be mapped out in advance in the same way as his physiological possibilities can. It is impossible to determine what counts as an adapted response to psychological damage, and this begs the question of what should be considered ‘psychological damage’ in the first place. In addition to the different concepts of totality on which medicine and psychiatry are premised ‒ organic totality versus psychological personality ‒ the medically sick individual maintains his autonomy from the medical practices surrounding him, whereas the mentally damaged subject cannot be isolated from them. The formation of the personality of the hysteric at the end of the nineteenth century demonstrates this: ‘Dispossessed of his or her rights by guardian and family, thrown back into what was practically a state of juridical and moral minority, deprived of freedom by the all-powerful doc-

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tor, the patient became the nexus of all social suggestions; and at the point of convergence of these practices, suggestibility was proposed as the major syndrome of hysteria’ (12). The social environment prompted a particular response from the patient (suggestibility), which was, in turn, identified as a symptom of the mental illness he/she was supposedly suffering from (hysteria); that is, the illness was ‘invented’ on the basis of the patient’s response to his or her particular situation. It was not surprising, then, that ‘the face of hysteria…disappear[ed] with the practices of suggestion that once constituted the patient’s environment’ (13). The problem with the above line of argument is that it violates the psychosomatic unity of the individual, which is surprising given that Foucault criticizes his opponents on precisely the same grounds. By arguing that medicine can isolate the subject’s body from its environment and objectively assess the nature of the body’s response or adaptation to that same environment, given the scope of our physiological possibilities as a species, whereas the same is not true in the case of psychiatry, Foucault reaffirms the body-mind dualism that he is supposedly trying to challenge. He suggests that the patient’s body and mind are separate on account of their different natures: the body is finite (its physiological possibilities are finite and the damage to them can be objectively evaluated/diagnosed) whereas the mind is infinite (neither damage to the mind nor its response to a particular situation can be conclusively established as ‘pathological’ because our mental possibilities are infinite and totally dependent on, and constructed by, our environment). Simply put, the body is autonomous ‒ it can be isolated from its environment and studied objectively ‒ while the mind is not. The mind is always already in-the-world: its ‘response’ to a particular situation is its mode of being, rather than a response to an outside stimulus that can be isolated and studied objectively. Thus ‘response’ and ‘adaptation’ have completely different meanings in medicine and psychiatry: in medicine ‘response’ signifies the response of an individual as representative of the whole human species according to its physiological possibilities, while in psychiatry ‘response’ refers to the response of a concrete individual to a particular situation. Accordingly, Foucault urges us to study the specificity of mental illness, as distinguished from the universality or generality of physical illness (whose symptoms are shared by all representatives of the species). In short, we all share the same body, but our mental lives are absolutely idiosyncratic. Foucault never resolves the tension he posits between the autonomy and universality/generality of the body and, on the other hand, the specificity of the mind and its dependence on the environment: the body’s autonomy from its environment allows us to map a range of responses, from


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the body’s well-adapted (normal) to maladapted (abnormal or pathological) responses to the world; by contrast, the mind’s lack of autonomy prevents psychiatry from ever coming up with such a map of normal and pathological responses to the world. Once we recognize this fundamental difference between medicine and psychiatry, Foucault concludes, we must accept that when it comes to mental illness, the only things we can study are not its symptoms or natural causes, but rather its genealogy or history, the construction of the illness as illness and the reasons why certain illnesses were constructed as illnesses during particular historical periods and in particular cultures. To ‘free ourselves from psychology’, as Foucault urges us to do at the end of the book, is to recognize that madness can only be seen as a metaphor for particular social themes that become exaggerated at a given point in the history of a particular culture. In the second chapter, ‘Mental Illness and Evolution’, Foucault sets out to dismantle the habit of describing mental illness purely in negative terms: ‘In fact, mental illness effaces, but it also emphasizes; on the one hand, it suppresses, but on the other, it accentuates; the essence of mental illness lies not only in the void that it hollows out, but also in the positive plenitude of the activities of replacement that fill that void’ (17). However, suppressed functions and accentuated functions do not belong to the same ‘class’. While the former are complex, the latter are ‘segmentary and simple’: [T]he positive phenomena of the illness are opposed to the negative phenomena as the simple to the complex. But also as the stable to the unstable. … The behavior accentuated by the illness possesses a psychological solidity lacking in the suppressed structures. The pathological process exaggerates the most stable phenomena and suppresses only the most labile. (17-18)

Mental illness renders one’s usually complex, unified, and flexible mental life rigid and simple; the illness arrests the flow of life into rigid, stable responses to the environment that lack the normal indeterminacy, ambiguity and pliability that characterizes non-pathological modes of existence. Contrary to the common image of the mentally ill as volatile and unstable, the distinguishing characteristic of mental illness is, in fact, rigidity and stability: ‘To conclude, then, let us say that the illness suppresses complex, unstable, voluntary functions by emphasizing simple, stable, compulsive functions’ (18). By ‘borrowing’ the symptoms of a particular mental disorder ‒ obsessivecompulsive disorder, or any type of neurosis characterized by compulsive

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repetition ‒ to describe mental illness as such (emphasizing the stabilizing, simplifying and rigidifying effect of mental illness on our normally pliable, flexible mental life), Foucault commits the very same categorical error he criticized in the first section of the book in his discussion of the invention of hysteria. To recall, the suggestibility of the environment in which patients at the end of the nineteenth century found themselves (at the Salpêtrière hospital, for example) would be generally identified as a symptom of the disease they were supposedly suffering from and for which they had been hospitalized in the first place; in other words, their response to their environment was posited retrospectively as the cause of their condition. Now, in order to demonstrate that we cannot draw a clear line between normal and pathological mental life, Foucault has to show that the subject is always already immersed in his or her world and there is no ‘outside’ criterion according to which we could judge his or her existence-in-the-world (his or her responses to it) as normal or abnormal. But then the structure of psychosis appears to mirror the nature of our mental existence: psychosis affects the entire personality, making it impossible ‒ unthinkable ‒ for the subject to ‘step back’ and consider his or her response as well-adjusted or pathological. It is because our mental life always takes the form of beingin-the-world that psychosis is possible, but, at the same time, the totally immersive nature of psychosis makes it impossible to ‘judge’ psychosis as a mental illness, since it merely mimics (though in an exaggerated form) the nature of our mental life (total immersion, being-in-the-world). In the end, then, Foucault suggests that our mode of existence is inherently psychotic. At this point Foucault turns to a discussion of the temporality of mental illness, specifically to the crucial distinction between ‘evolution’ and ‘history’. He dismisses the popular theory of mental illness as a regression to archaic stages in the patient’s evolution as completely misguided. According to this theory, which Foucault admits was an improvement on the theory of mental illness as a natural form, mental illness is a result of a reversal of the normal temporal flow: ‘The illness is not an essence contra nature, it is nature itself but in an inverted process; the natural history of the illness has merely to flow back against the current of the natural history of the healthy organism’ (19). Freud’s work was particularly instrumental in this shift to regressive forms of mental illness: ‘The history of the libido, of its development, of its successive fixations, resembles a collection of the pathological possibilities of the individual: each type of neurosis is a return to a libidinal stage of evolution. … In short, every libidinal stage is a potential pathological structure. Neurosis is a spontaneous archaeology of the libido’ (21). The evolutionary theory of mental illness is based on the assumption


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that difficulties in human relationships mark a regression to an earlier stage in the evolution of the species (and presumably in the evolution of the individual) which is, in turn, based on another implicit assumption: that the development of human relationships depends on the development of our experience of time. For instance, the evolutionary model tries to explain a psychasthenic’s inability to believe in the reality of his environment in terms of his difficulty to engage in social behavior, which is itself predicated on a certain type of temporal duality. Most social behavior depends on a kind of ‘double operation’; that is, it involves actions that contain a reversal: If the psychasthenic finds attention to the present so difficult … it is because of the social implications that in some obscure way it contains; all those actions that contain a reversal (seeing/being seen, in presence; speaking/being spoken to, in language; believing/being believed, in narration) are difficult to him because they occur in a social context. A whole social evolution was required before dialogue became a mode of interhuman relation; it was made possible only by a transition from a society immobile in its hierarchy of the moment, which authorized only the order, to a society in which equality of relations made possible and assured potential exchange, fidelity to the past, the engagement of the future, and the reciprocity of points of view. The patient who is incapable of dialogue regresses through this whole social evolution. (23)

Foucault understands the reciprocity of human interaction in terms of the temporality of experience, the ability to act in the present with the awareness that the present action will have a future that one will then be able to recount as a past event. The extension of the present moment simultaneously into the past and into the future (temporal reversibility or flexibility) is aligned with the experience of reciprocity with other human beings; that is, one’s experience of time is posited as the fundamental ground of one’s social existence. For example, the ability to recount an event to others (dialogue being one of the most obvious examples of social interaction) depends on one’s ability to carry out an action in the present (which demands a belief in the reality of the present), knowing that it will become, in the future, a past event to be recounted to others. As we shall see in the chapter on multiple personality and the discourse of the multiple in Hollywood cinema, post-filmic cinema (to use Garrett Stewart’s term) parodies this model of madness, according to which disturbances in one’s temporal experience are supposed to manifest as damage to one’s social skills. More often than not, post-filmic cinema ‒ specifically, what

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I call the ‘multiple film’, films dealing with multiple identities/realities/ temporalities ‒ presents disturbances in a character’s temporal experience not as psychological problems, but rather as a therapeutic strategy for coping with stressful life situations. In these films, premonition, déjà-vu, and other kinds of ‘time travel’ function as props helping the protagonists reinsert themselves in the social framework from which they have become alienated as a result of a trauma. The experience of temporal disturbance is neither associated with a regression to an archaic form of behavior or an earlier stage of social evolution, nor is it linked to a destabilized sense of personal or social agency; instead, it is presented as a chance for social reintegration. Foucault traces the stages of mental disintegration that a patient (in the evolutionary theory of mental illness) goes through, from the loss of dialogue, through the impoverishment of symbolic existence, to the appearance of delusions and hallucinations, the last stage marked by a pathology of belief as interhuman behavior: the social criterion of truth (‘believing what others believe’) is no longer valid for the patient; and into this world that the absence of others has deprived of objective solidity, it introduces a whole world of symbols, fantasies, obsessions; the world in which the other’s gaze has been extinguished becomes porous to hallucinations and delusion. (24)

As we shall see, however, although the protagonists in ‘multiple films’ seem representative of this last stage, to the extent that they all ‘suffer’ from a ‘pathology of belief’ ‒ what others believe is no longer valid for them ‒ their ‘pathology of belief’ is presented as ensuring, rather than threatening, their success in working through the traumatic experience that triggered the ‘pathology of belief’ in the first place. Foucault rejects the evolutionary theory of mental illness, relegating it to the realm of myth, ‘the myth, to begin with, of a certain psychological substance (Freud’s “libido”, Janet’s “psychic force”), which is seen as the raw material of evolution and which, progressing in the course of individual and social development, is subject to relapses and can fall back, through illness, to an earlier phase; the myth, too, between the mentally ill person, the primitive, and the child’ (24). His ultimate conclusion ‒ ‘There can be no question of archaic personalities … we must accept the specificity of the morbid personality; the pathological structure of the psyche is not a return to origins; it is strictly original’ (25-26) ‒ betrays an intolerance for any element of anteriority (the essentialist prejudice according to which mental illness is an essence that becomes manifested through a series of


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symptoms). Mental illness is neither an essence (an origin) nor a return to some archaic origins in the evolution of the individual. Foucault refuses to draw clear-cut distinctions between ‘normal’ and ‘pathological’ mental functions, arranging them instead on a scale ranging from neurosis, through paranoia, dream states, mania and melancholy, to schizophrenia, psychosis, and dementia. The normal operation of an individual’s mental functions can be construed in terms of a balance between suppressing and accentuating certain mental functions (a balance between the negative and positive forms of mental illness). In other words, given that even in its normal state mental life alternates between suppressing and accentuating certain kinds of behavior, it is not the behavior itself that can be judged ‘normal’ or ‘pathological’, but only the ratio between processes of suppression (negative, resulting in a deficit) and processes of accentuation (positive, resulting in the rigidity characteristic of compulsory forms of behavior). Foucault asserts that in paranoia, for example, ‘the general disorder of mood frees an emotional structure that is merely an exaggeration of the usual behavior of the personality’ (26) and that even in the most severe cases of mental illness (with the exception of dementia) the personality never disappears completely. Mental illness does not involve a regression to archaic personalities but rather a morbid reorganization of the individual’s mental life. Therefore, the focus of study should not be on the possible stages to which an individual might have regressed, but rather the particular way in which a patient organizes his or her world. Even the most morbid and inferior organization of an individual’s personal world retains a point of coherence that guarantees their experience of the unity of their consciousness: ‘The regressive analysis describes the orientation of the illness without revealing its point of origin. If it were no more than regression, mental illness would be like a potentiality laid down in each individual by the very movement of his evolution’ (28). The regressive/evolutionary theory fails to explain why a person suffers from this rather than that mental illness, or why the illness developed at a specific moment in time. In the next section, Foucault continues to disentangle the notion of ‘personal history’ from that of ‘evolution’, emphasizing their different temporalities. ‘Evolution’ is predicated on the determination of the present by the past, while ‘history’ refers to the determination of the past by the present: In psychological evolution, it is the past that promotes the present and makes it possible; in psychological history, it is the present that detaches itself from the past, conferring meaning upon it, making it intelligible. Psychological development [devenir] is both evolution and

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history; psychic time must be analyzed both in terms of the anterior and the actual ‒ that is, in evolutive terms ‒ and in terms of the past and the present ‒ that is, in historical terms. (30)

Foucault’s definition of ‘personal history’, as distinguished from ‘evolution’, is based on the same reversal of cause-and-effect temporality (what I would call the ‘fictionalization of time’) that underlies Ian Hacking’s analysis, in Rewriting the Self, of intentionality through the prism of the pathological structures of multiple personality disorder. Hacking claims that multiple personality ‘illustrates, in a heightened way, a completely general phenomenon about memory, description, the past and the soul’ (95). This general phenomenon is the issue of intentionality: what constitutes an action determines how actions are recalled. That is, insofar as multiple personality is about recalling actions, rather than simply states of mind, memory depends on the very definition of an action. Intentional actions (actions under a description) are inherently indeterminate ‒ it is the actions as such that are indeterminate, rather than our memories of them: ‘When new intentions become open to me, because new descriptions, new concepts, become available to me, I live in a new world of opportunities’ (236). Multiple personalities become solidified when they are named or when a new vocabulary for describing them is forged: Old actions under new descriptions may be re-experienced in memory. And if these are genuinely new descriptions, descriptions not available or perhaps nonexistent at the time of the episodes remembered, then something is experienced now, in memory that in a certain sense did not exist before. The action took place, but not the action under the new description. … When we remember what we did, or what other people did, we may also rethink, re-describe, and re-feel the past. These re-descriptions may be perfectly true of the past; that is, they are truths that we now assert about the past. And yet, paradoxically, they may not have been true in the past, that is, not truths about intentional actions that made sense when the actions were performed. (Hacking 249)

It is through his distinction between the different temporalities of evolution and personal history that Foucault lays the foundation for what I called, at the beginning of this chapter, a therapeutic approach to psychopathology. In contrast to ‘psychological evolution,’ based on the notion of an integrated, linear, progressive temporality that can only be compromised by a pathological regression to an archaic stage, ‘psychological history’ is rooted in a different


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idea of psychological time as inherently reversible: the past, the present and the future are in a relation of potential tension or contradiction with one another. In the absence of an external point of view that the subject could adopt with respect to time, anteriority does not have precedence over the present. Thus, any case of ‘regression’ or ‘return’ to archaic origins can be read pragmatically: Regression is not a natural falling back into the past; it is an intentional flight from the present. A recourse rather than a return. But one can escape the present only by putting something else in its place; and the past that breaks through in pathological behavior is not the native ground to which one returns as to a lost country, but the factitious, imaginary past of substitutions. (Foucault 33)

Foucault’s notion of ‘psychological history’, which construes the past as an indicator of some problem in the present, rather than the source of trauma, is essentially therapeutic: it gives back to the subject the (belief in) freedom to reinterpret his or her situation. Instead of asking ‘what happened in the past that explains the subject’s pathological behavior in the present?’, Foucault asks ‘what is gained in the present by the substitution of earlier, “archaic” forms of behavior or of imaginary objects for adult forms of behavior or for a real object?’ (33) The only significance of the past lies not in its content but in what it distracts us from in the present. It is not the present that serves as a sign of something hidden in the past (some unspeakable trauma); rather, it is the past that serves as a sign of some problem in the present that the patient is refusing to address. The content of the substitution is not meaningful in itself: its only significance lies in pointing to that for which it acts as a substitution. Hence the importance of ‘defense mechanisms’: It can be said, therefore, that the advantage gained by the patient in derealizing his present in illness is originally a need to defend himself against this present. The illness has for content the whole set of reactions of flight and of defence in which he finds himself; and it is on the basis of this present, this present situation, that one must understand and give meaning to the evolutive regressions that emerge in pathological behavior. … The reiterative form of the pathological is only secondary in relation to its defensive signification. (35-36)

The repetitive return to the past is secondary to what that return is indicative of in the present, secondary to what it is a defense against in the present. This

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reorientation of the debate on mental illness marks an important shift away from an evolutionary/essentialist understanding of mental illness ‒ and mental life in general ‒ to a pragmatic view of mental illness/mental life. Foucault provides several examples, in the form of case studies, of the strategic/pragmatic nature of mental illness, to demonstrate that ‘the pathological mechanism is … a protection against a conflict, a defence in face of the contradiction that arouses it’ (38). This contradiction, and the anxiety to which it gives rise, is in fact part of normal psychological behavior. On the one hand, anxiety ‘as a psychological experience of internal contradiction … serves as a common denominator … and gives a single signification to the psychological development of an individual’; but, on the other hand, ‘with anxiety we are at the heart of pathological significations. Beneath all the protection mechanisms that particularize the illness, anxiety reveals itself and each type of illness defines a specific way of reacting to it’ (40). Mental illness, then, is a pathological response to a common fact of life: the anxiety produced by life’s inner contradictions. Indeed, anxiety is essential to the constitution of normal psychological history: ‘In a sense, it might be said, then, that it is through anxiety that psychological evolution is transformed into individual history; it is anxiety, in effect, that, by uniting past and present, situates them in relation to one another and confers on them a community of meanings’ (41). This raises the following question: if anxiety is an essential part of the transformation of psychological evolution into individual history ‒ the establishment of the significative insertion of the past into the present ‒ what distinguishes the normal process of this transformation from its pathological version? Foucault’s answer is ‘the circular monotony’ of this process in the mentally ill, who try to protect themselves from the past with their present defense mechanisms and, at the same time, to protect themselves from any potential present anxieties by using defense mechanisms developed in similar situations in the past. The pathology Foucault describes here is essentially a pathology of time: ‘Does the patient defend himself with his present against his past, or does he protect himself from his present with the help of a history that now belongs to the past?... In contrast with the history of the normal individual, the pathological history is marked by this circular monotony’ (41). Ironically, having established this circularity as the basis of the pathological process, Foucault proposes that to understand mental illness it is necessary to complement the psychology of evolution (looking at the patient’s past) with the patient’s psychological history (looking at the present meaning of the patient’s past); in other words, the method of analysis he proposes is based on the same circularity that is


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supposed to be the essence of the pathological process. On the one hand, Foucault claims that ‘if the patient is ill, he is so insofar as present and past are not linked together in the form of a progressive integration’ (41); but, on the other hand, as we saw above, he maintains that it is in the very nature of normal psychological history not to be progressively integrated (linear) but always open to recursions and reinterpretations. If it is in the very nature of defense mechanisms to be ‘historically bound’ with the anxiety such mechanisms are supposed to alleviate, how are pathological defense mechanisms to be distinguished from normal defense mechanisms? If normal individual history is reversible ‒ the past inserting itself in the present even as the present reinterprets the past ‒ how can one distinguish the pathology of time, from which the mentally ill allegedly suffer, from the equally recursive flow of normal psychological time? Foucault acknowledges the a priori existence of anxiety, and thus the difficulty of distinguishing pathological from non-pathological responses to anxiety: For a contradiction to be experienced in the anxious mode of ambivalence, for a subject in a conflictual situation to be enclosed in the circularity of pathological defence mechanisms, the anxiety must already be present, having already transformed the ambiguity of a situation into the ambivalence of reactions. If anxiety fills an individual’s history, it is because it is its principle and foundation; it defines, from the outset, a certain style of experience that marks the traumas, the psychological mechanisms, that it triggers off, the forms of repetition that it affects in the course of pathological episodes: it is a sort of a priori of existence. (43)

Crucially, by the end of the chapter Foucault has failed to distinguish the circularity or recursiveness constitutive of personal history either from the circularity he identifies as the basis of pathological behavior, or from the critical method of analysis of mental illness he puts forward, a method equally reliant on circularity (complementing psychological evolution (linearity) with psychological history (recursiveness). Foucault opens the next chapter, ‘Mental Illness and Existence’, by acknowledging the recursiveness inherent in the new approach to psychopathology he proposes; ‘[a] method that owes nothing to the discursive analyses, the mechanistic causality, of the Naturwissenschaften; a method that must never turn into biographical history, with its description of successive links and its serial determinism’ (44-45). This is, in short, the method of phenomenological psychology, which rejects the distance of objective

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knowledge in favor of the immediacy of intersubjective knowledge through intuition, ‘leaping into the interior of morbid consciousness, [trying] to see the pathological world with the eyes of the patient himself’ (45). The phenomenological method of intuition seeks to restore ‘the experience that the patient has of his illness (the way in which he experiences himself as a sick or abnormal individual)’ (46). Ironically, even as Foucault rejects any degree of distance or objectification within the mind of the researcher of mental illness, he introduces a self-objectifying distance within the mind of the mentally ill person himself, who, he suggests, is aware of his own condition as mentally ill. He quickly tries to defend himself against this potential critique: Nothing could be more false than the myth of madness as an illness that is unaware of itself as such. … But, however lucid the patient may be, he does not view his illness in the same way the doctor does: he never adopts that speculative distance that would enable him to grasp the illness as an objective process unfolding within him, without his participation. (47)

In the next couple of sentences, however, Foucault brings back the very distance (i.e. self-awareness) that he was careful not to introduce in his phenomenological analysis, for now he argues that the patient’s particular way of engaging with his illness, reacting or responding to it, is part of the illness itself: ‘The way in which a subject accepts or rejects his illness, the way in which he interprets it and gives signification to its most absurd forms, constitutes one of the essential dimensions of the illness’ (47). He locates this self-awareness somewhere between lack of awareness and self-objectifying awareness by referring to it as ‘an allusive recognition’ or ‘ambiguous consciousness’ (47). Foucault’s claim that the patient’s self-awareness of his illness is part of the illness itself accords with his refusal to conceptualize mental illness as a foreign body that attacks the patient from without. The patient’s attitude toward his symptoms, he argues, particularizes his illness. For instance, the patient denies that his illness has changed his psychological experience and keeps the illness at the limits of his body, recognizing only physical alterations as a result of the illness. That is to say, the patient denies the reality of the total change in his experience of the world by acknowledging a partial change in his experience (one affecting only his physical existence). This purposeful self-objectification, which serves as a self-defense mechanism ‒ thinking of one’s physical self as sick in order


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not to acknowledge the psychological transformation brought about by the illness (a version of Sartre’s ‘bad faith’) ‒ is, for Foucault, an element of the illness itself. Self-objectification (thinking of oneself as a physical being only, from which one can dissociate oneself, thereby preserving one’s freedom) is pathological; but, at the same time, because Foucault wants to preserve the phenomenological unity of the patient’s consciousness (and to deny the notion of illness as a foreign body), he insists that the patient’s self-objectif ication (which, as we saw, he just defined as pathological) demonstrates that the illness does not exist ‘outside’ the patient, for he is always already in a certain mode of apprehending it and thus not being controlled by it: ‘As well as being elements of the illness, these organic or pseudo-organic forms [the objectivity the patient confers on his illness, as demonstrated in the range of hysterical signs, for example] are, for the subject, modes of apprehending his illness’ (47). To sum up, Foucault declares self-objectification to be pathological (insofar as it is a defense mechanism used by the patient in order not to acknowledge the reality of the psychological damage he has suffered) but, at the same time, he uses self-objectification to demonstrate the phenomenological unity of normal (non-pathological forms of) consciousness. Thus, the phenomenological unity of consciousness guarantees the lack of a clear-cut distinction between the normal and the pathological and, vice versa, the relationship of ‘double reference’ in which the morbid and the normal are always-already constituted guarantees the phenomenological unity of consciousness: Whatever form it takes, and whatever degrees of obnubilation it involves, mental illness always implies a consciousness of illness; the morbid world is never an absolute in which all reference to the normal is suppressed; on the contrary, the sick consciousness is always deployed with, for itself, a double reference, either to the normal and the pathological, or to the familiar and the strange. (50)

Foucault complements this noetic analysis with a noematic one, which includes studying the structures with which the pathological world is organized. The noematic analysis focuses on disturbances in the patient’s experience of time and space, the socio-cultural world, and his own body. Each mental disorder, Foucault writes, ‘involves a specific alteration in experienced time’ (for example, he refers to Binswanger’s definition of temporal disturbance in the case of mania, where ‘time is rendered instantaneous by fragmentation’) (51). Space, ‘as a structure of the experienced world, lends

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itself to the same type of analysis’ (51): for example, the mentally ill person might experience distances as disappearing or clear space blurring into obscure space, or he might experience the vanishing of space’s ‘utensility’. Such disturbances of the Umwelt are accompanied by disturbances in the Mitwelt as others stop presenting themselves as social beings and appear as Strangers. Finally, ‘the presence of the body on the horizon of consciousness’ (54) might change, as in those cases where one experiences one’s body as immobile and heavy as a thing. In all these cases, however, it is not psychological history that gives rise to the patient’s particular form of pathological world, but vice versa: ‘The morbid world is not explained by historical causality (I am referring, of course, to psychological history) but historical causality is possible only because this world exists: it is this world that forges the link between cause and effect, the anterior and the ulterior’ (55). There is no objective, independently existing standard of normality from the point of view of which one can establish the particular causes that led to the formation of a pathological world; on the contrary, the particular form of pathological world structures the patient’s world in specific ways, positing certain events as causes and others as effects. As with the previous discussion of disturbances in the individual’s temporal experience here, too, Foucault continues to insist on the original/originary nature of pathology, on its autonomy; in short, on its capacity to structure the individual’s world in particular ways rather than being merely a result/ effect/symptom of external, pre-existing causes. The last chapter makes it sufficiently clear that Foucault is less interested in tracing the etiology or symptomatology of particular psychopathologies than in writing the history of the discipline of psychology and analyzing the style of particular cultures at particular historical moments; that is, the ways in which particular cultures structure experience temporally and spatially. In his view, the ‘analyses of our psychologists and sociologists, which turn the patient into a deviant and which seek the origin of the morbid in the abnormal are … above all a projection of cultural themes. In fact, a society expresses itself positively in the mental illnesses manifested by its members’ (63, my italics). In the Preface to Psychology and Mental Illness, Hubert Dreyfus situates Foucault in the context of the debate between Freudian and existential approaches to psychiatry. Foucault’s project is predicated on replacing the epistemological account of the relation of the mind to the world, on which psychoanalysis is based, with an ontological or existential one, according to which ‘mental representations and intentionality presuppose a context in which objects can show up and make sense. This context is provided


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by a background understanding of what counts as objects, what counts as human beings, and ultimately of what counts as real’ (xviii). The ontological account of man (man as ‘being-in-the-world) led to a shift in the approach to psychopathology: rather than studying the content of pathological behavior (in terms of causes and effects), the ontological account emphasizes the importance of studying an individual’s style of structuring time and space. Dreyfus cites Binswanger’s view of psychopathology as ‘a distortion of the human clearing that makes it narrow and rigid’ and Merleau-Ponty’s belief that “pathology occurs when the particular way a person relates to some people or some objects becomes his way of relating to all people and all objects … i.e., some aspect of the epistemological relation of a subject to other persons and objects, which should take place in the clearing, becomes a dimension of the clearing itself” (xx), a shift from content to context he calls “generalization.”. The therapy in such cases seeks to turn the ontological back into the epistemological; helping the patient see that what he believes to be his destiny, the way things simply are, is actually a single, arbitrary interpretation that he has taken to be objective reality. That is to say, the therapy consists in a process that is the opposite of generalizing from content to context, showing that what one assumes to be the context (objective reality) is just one particular way of interpreting reality. But it is one thing to say that certain things are ‘in the clearing’, without giving the clearing a particular dimension, and another thing to say that the mentally ill person should be able to step back, ‘outside the clearing’ as it were, and realize that he has confused something in the clearing with the clearing itself, that he has raised one specific interpretation to the level of objective reality. After all, the clearing (the context) as such is not visible (it is the condition of possibility of visibility), so it is unclear how an individual can be made to see that he has generalized content to context. Furthermore, it is unclear why, after criticizing the epistemological account of man and replacing it with the supposedly superior ontological account, existentialist psychiatry construes therapy as ‘turning the ontological back into the epistemological.’8 The aporias that are opened up by the ontological approach to psychopathology are not exclusive to Foucault’s work. Even psychoanalyticallyinformed popular culture approaches to madness, such as Slavoj Žižek’s, end up recasting madness as fulfilling a therapeutic function rather than demanding therapy. Sophie Fiennes’s 2006 film, The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, ‘starring’ Žižek, opens with Žižek’s familiar argument that reality is structured by symbolic fictions. Our sense of reality is shattered when the symbolic fictions that structure and support it stop functioning, when

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our own position within the symbolic space disintegrates. At the same time, however, Žižek argues that whenever something traumatic happens to us we fictionalize it as a way of coping with the trauma. How are we to distinguish, then, between the shattering of reality ‒ which Žižek attributes to the malfunctioning of the symbolic fictions supporting it ‒ and, on the other hand, our strategies to cope with this shattering of reality (fictionalizing the source of trauma in order to conceal its true terror)? Put differently, what is the difference between the symbolic functions structuring our sense of reality, and, on the other hand, the fictionalization of reality we engage in to deal with a particularly traumatic experience? Žižek’s conflation of the two suggests, perhaps, that the symbolic functions structuring reality actually cover up an originary traumatic experience, that is, our sense of reality as such (rather than our sense of reality in particular situations) is a coping strategy that covers up some unthinkable and originary trauma. In other words, the symbolic fictions inscribing us within reality are just as fictionalizing as the fictions that we are forced to come up with in order to re-insert ourselves within reality once we have been alienated from it as a result of a traumatic experience. Our sense of reality, then, is not something we experience naturally or immediately, but a response to trauma. If this is the case, mental health (characterized by a properly functioning sense of reality, which depends, as we saw, on fictionalizing symbolic functions) is indistinguishable from mental illness (characterized by efforts to fictionalize the source of trauma). This interpretation is corroborated by Žižek’s central claim in the film, namely, that our supposedly ‘natural’ sense of reality is perverted: there is nothing natural about our desires; in fact, we have to be taught to desire. Similarly, we might say, there is nothing ‘natural’ about the symbolic functions structuring reality: their structuring function is ultimately indistinguishable from that of fictionalizing therapeutic discourses. After all, Žižek himself points out that exposing these structuring symbolic functions is inevitably a traumatic experience. Our sense of reality is an elaborately constructed illusion, and what we need to cure ourselves from the traumatic realization of this illusion is another illusion, which re-establishes our sense of reality, until another traumatic realization shatters it again, demanding a re-fictionalization, and so on ad infinitum. Žižek gleefully declares cinema ‘the ultimate pervert art’ ‒ it doesn’t give you what you desire, it tells you how to desire. One wonders, however, about the usefulness of calling cinema ‘perverted’ once the notion of ‘natural’ or ‘normal’ has been discredited. After all, if the sense of reality is not ‘natural’ to begin with, what is the point of calling cinema ‘perverted’? Whatever the


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case may be, the most important point that emerges from Žižek’s analysis of ‘perversion’ is his peculiar definition of the sense of reality as essentially therapeutic: therapy is not merely a strategy of coping with a shattered sense of reality; rather, therapy constitutes our sense of reality. The reason fictionalizing traumatic experiences works (though not in all cases and never for a long period of time) is precisely because our ‘normal’ (that is, our nontraumatic) experience works in the same way: it is continuously fictionalized. The multiplication of personalities in multiple personality disorder works as a kind of ‘therapy’ for dealing with trauma because the self is multiple to begin with. But once we declare fictionalizing essential to both a normal sense of reality and to an abnormal state of mind (in which the individual is trying to deal with trauma), we are forced to consider all experiences traumatic. Žižek’s discussion of ‘the voice’ and of ‘partial objects’ in cinema provides additional evidence of his failure (or unwillingness) to distinguish a ‘normal’ sense of reality from therapeutic strategies for coping with a shattered sense of reality, that is, of his tendency to define the sense of reality as inherently therapeutic. Žižek observes that rather than portraying pathological states of possession by ghosts, films like The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (Fritz Lang, 1933), The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973) and Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979) ‒ all of which deal with the possession of a body by a voice ‒ explore a fundamental conflict between psychic energy, what Freud calls ‘the libido’, and the finite reality of our body. Possession by ghosts or by the devil is not a pathological mental state that affects only certain people (the insane); rather, it is a psychoanalytical ‘truth’ about all people, the sane and the insane, inasmuch as we are all the site of an eternal struggle between the libido (desire or, as Bergson called it, ‘vital force’) and matter. Positing the material body as our primary existence, Žižek argues that we (inasmuch as we are ‘made up of’ psychic energy) are the aliens controlling our animal bodies. Mental alienation, then, is constitutive of our being: the mind (psychic energy) is in principle alienated from the body, which experiences this psychic energy as a form of possession by an abstract, infinite force that clashes with the materiality and finiteness of the body. From this point of view, a shattered sense of reality, experienced as a widening gap between our material and our psychic being, is not an abnormal state but simply an exaggeration of the ‘normal’ conflict between the two, a conflict that is constitutive of who we are as humans. Žižek provides two examples of how psychic energy, which he defines as a terrifying alien force, an intruder, becomes manifest: through the human voice, in films like The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, The Great Dictator (Charles Chaplin, 1940) and Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, 2001); and

Introduc tion


through the partial object, in films like The Red Shoes (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1948, with the shoes materializing the character’s passion for dance), Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999, with the protagonist’s hand hitting himself), and Dr. Strangelove (Stanley Kubrick, 1964, with the leather gloved hand automatically doing the Nazi salute). He attributes the nightmarish dimension of the human voice and of partial objects (objects that seem to have an autonomous existence independent of the rest of the body, objects that embody the dimension of the undead) to the fact that they are, at the same time, parts that function autonomously and parts of a larger whole. But, perhaps more importantly, the terror they provoke is due to their automatic/mechanical nature, which challenges the notion of the human being as conscious, rational, self-aware and free. The autonomy of the voice from the body renders the body as a soulless machine; similarly, the autonomy of partial objects (such as hands, for example) endows them with a life of their own, making the rest of the body appear mechanical, depriving it of self-control. Our mode of existence can thus be described in terms of mental alienation: alienation of the mind (epitomized here by the voice) from the body, and alienation of the body from itself (manifested in the fragmentation of the body into a series of autonomous parts, ‘partial objects’). In short, for Žižek, mental alienation is not a pathological state but the primary mode of existence of all human beings. Mental alienation can take either of two forms: separation/splitting (of psychic energy from body, of body from psychic energy) or doubling (as Žižek remarks, the only way I can get rid of a partial object is to become it, like the ventriloquist in the British portmanteau horror film Dead of Night (1945)). Dead of Night centers on the conflict between the ventriloquist and his puppet, which dramatizes the primary conflict between the voice ‒ that is, psychic energy ‒ and the body. The voice is externalized as a separate, independent entity; the puppet that, however, still depends on the human being (the ventriloquist). More precisely, the ventriloquist wants to convince us that the voice is independent from the body, even though we are aware this is not the case. However, illusion becomes reality, a reality that illustrates Žižek’s ideas in the most literal way. Having been externalized into the illusion of an independent voice, the voice is internalized: the ventriloquist starts speaking with his puppet’s voice; in other words, the puppet takes over completely. One never speaks in one’s own voice: one is never oneself. The mental breakdown of the ventriloquist reveals otherness as constitutive of every normal human being: what fails to function (the separation of man and puppet) reveals what was necessary to sustain the illusion of functioning in the first place. It is only through the


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failure of mental functions that we understand the conditions of possibility for their functioning in the first place. And vice versa: every mental function presupposes the failure against which it guards, which is to say, normal mental functions are constitutively therapeutic, that is, fictionalizing.9 Mental Illness and Psychology proposes the substitution of an ontological for an epistemological approach to psychopathology. Rather than studying the content of pathological behavior in terms of causes and effects, as the epistemological approach does, the ontological approach emphasizes the importance of studying an individual’s style of structuring time and space. However, as I have demonstrated through a close analysis of Foucault’s argument, in its attempt to recuperate madness from objectifying, punitive medical models, the ontological approach to psychopathology opens up a number of aporias, laying the foundation for a therapeutic model of psychopathology with its own ideological function.10 Because the ontological approach to psychopathology does not consider ‘pathology’ to be an essential, pre-existing entity, but simply a particular style of structuring experience, its concern is ultimately pragmatic: this approach views psychopathology as an individual’s response to their environment, rather than as a ‘symptom’ or a ‘result’ of maladjustment. To think about psychopathology in terms of ‘style’ is to import some of the rules and premises (as well as the terminology: ‘style’, after all, is an aesthetic term) of what is essentially an aesthetic discourse into the discourse of psychiatry and psychology. However, the aestheticization of madness, the transformation of psychological disorders into cultural and aesthetic phenomena that the rest of this book traces, is not a recent phenomenon: the beginnings of this paradigm shift can be traced back to the fin de siècle, specifically to the simultaneous birth of psychoanalysis and cinema. One of the main ways in which psychoanalysis and cinema shaped the development of a new, dynamic model of the self was by transforming attention ‒ both as a psychological process and as a theoretical concept ‒ into the main problem of the new sciences of mind and the new technologies of reproduction. The development of film language, specifically the narrativization of early cinema, demonstrated that attention is not a natural, primary mental state but one that demands a certain amount of effort and/ or training: attention has to be structured. Numerous cases of ambulatory automatism and double consciousness recorded at the turn of the century provided scientific evidence in support of the aesthetic evidence offered by early cinema: studies of amnesia and multiple personality, for instance, confirmed that attention ‒ that is, consciousness ‒ is a secondary state that functions as an inhibitory mechanism disciplining our primary states of

Introduc tion


unconsciousness, involuntary perception, involuntary memory, and dream. Once amnesia, inattention, distraction, automatism ‒ in general, absence from oneself ‒ which, up to that point, had been regarded as symptoms of a malfunctioning psychic apparatus, were revealed to be primary mental states, they could no longer be ‘diagnosed’ as ‘pathological’, just as the presence of rational thought could no longer be viewed as ‘proof’ of sanity. Once attention reversed the assumed hierarchical relationship between consciousness and the unconscious, the secondary state of consciousness/ attention, previously associated with sanity, appeared as a form of selfsubjugation, while the primary state of the unconscious/the automatic/ the irrational, previously associated with insanity, assumed the guise of self-emancipation resulting in the ‘recovery’ of one’s ‘authentic’ self. Paradoxically, rather than lending support to physiognomic (visual) theories of madness, the new visual media of photography and film demonstrated that ‘pathology’ ‒ previously conceived as the breakdown of conscious, rational psychological processes ‒ is, in fact, inherent in normal psychological processes rather than being visually inscribed. Not only was the unconscious ‒ that is to say, everything that had been previously construed as ‘pathological’ ‒ a normal part of a fully functional psychic apparatus: it was also automatically registered by the camera (the technical automatism of the camera mirroring the automatism of the unconscious) and thus exposed to continuous theatricalization. Ironically, in the very act of registering the unconscious, photography and film undermined their own claims to objectivity: in the words of Stanley Cavell, the camera condemned the subject to a perennially exposed, theatrical mode of existence, the only response to which is skepticism. The fact that most scientific applications of photography were, from the very beginning, driven by aesthetic concerns, and that they emphasized photography’s reproducibility, rather than its indexicality, pointed to the highly ambivalent status of the new visual media as ‘objective’ reproductions of reality. We can identify several periods in the history of psychopathology in cinema. Up until the mid-1910s, before psychoanalysis had attained wide recognition, madness ‒ or, more generally, the irrational ‒ in cinema served to foreground questions of medium specificity rather than being seen as an opportunity to explore characters’ psychology. In the 1920s and 1930s, while psychoanalysis was rapidly infiltrating popular culture, filmmakers found themselves in a paradoxical position as they struggled to visualize madness at a time when theories of madness as visually inscribed were already on the decline and the concept of the unconscious ‒ which was, by definition, invisible ‒ was already widely discussed. This accounts for


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the fact that visually, the majority of films made during this period lag behind contemporary theories of mind, often reviving the already obsolete physiognomic theories and theories of hypnosis, while narratively they anticipate later theories of madness as a social construct. Films made during the golden period of psychoanalysis, the 1940s and 1950s, popularized, and at the same time Americanized, psychoanalysis by adopting an ecological ‒ that it to say, social ‒ approach to madness. At the same time, the influence of psychoanalysis on cinema resulted in psychologically complex characters and, in the case of film noir, a new genre whose narrative structure was explicitly psychoanalytic. The increasing skepticism toward psychoanalysis in the 1960s and 1970s was a direct result of the rise of the anti-psychiatry movement, which challenged the power dynamics and social conformism inherent in psychoanalysis and psychiatry and, at the same time, encouraged a romanticization of madness as a form of resistance to oppressive social forces. The backlash against medical models of madness displaced madness from an object of knowledge, that is, a condition to be explored through a film’s character, to an aspect of film style, as, for instance, in the case of the visually excessive style of the giallo and its preoccupation with the fractured, suffering body rather than with the fractured psyche. By the 1990s, psychoanalysis was in decline and multiple personality was ‘enjoying’ a second ‘epidemic’ (after the first epidemic at the fin de siècle), this time in tandem with another illness that came to define the new millennium, Alzheimer’s disease. A new genre of film I call ‘the multiple film’ made psychopathology ‘cinematic’ again; however, rather than studying psychopathology from a psychological or medical point of view, the films in this genre drew indiscriminately on the symptoms of a wide range of psychological disorders in order to infuse new life into the conventional Hollywood plot. These films aesthetiticized psychopathologies into structural elements of film narrative, whose purpose was to foreground the increasing difficulty of grasping the totality of the contemporary globalized world in all its complexity and multiplicity. One of the paradoxical contributions of psychoanalysis was to draw attention to the essentially unstable, fragmented nature of subjectivity ‒ by reversing the usual hierarchy between consciousness and the unconscious, between sanity and insanity ‒ only to invest the vanishing subject with even more agency, now ‘relocated’ to the unconscious. Ironically, the decline of psychoanalysis did not ‘expose’ the postmodern subject as divested of agency; on the contrary, as contemporary ‘multiple’ films and conspiracy thrillers testify, the aestheticization of psychopathology ‒ the reduction of madness to a trope or an aspect of narrative structure ‒ fulfills an equally

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therapeutic function of investing an increasingly disempowered subject with an illusion of agency and free will. If psychopathology has become more and more difficult to visualize and locate, it is because it is no longer conceived as a ‘maladjusted’ response to reality but as constitutive of reality, of the structure of our imagination and, thus, of the structure of works of art.


The Story of Attention: Toward a Dynamic Model of the Self

The last decade of the nineteenth century was marked by acute and widespread anxiety over a range of ‘undesirables,’ including ‘the biologically unfit, the criminal classes, the “lower races”, the alcoholic, the syphilitic, the degenerate artist, the idiot, the moron, the masculinizing female, the feminizing male.’1 In The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1896), Gustave Le Bon identified urbanization and its consequences as probable causes of the ‘epidemic’ of insanity.2 Crowds, he observed, were extremely mobile and volatile, excited randomly by whatever was happening at that moment, incapable of premeditation, and difficult to govern. For Le Bon, what qualified an act as ‘insane’ was not its illogical, strange or surreal nature, but rather its lack of agency: ‘insanity’ meant, first of all, the absence of will or consciousness.3 Similarly, in Degeneration (1892), Max Nordau, a prolific writer of Austro-Hungarian Jewish origins who studied and practiced medicine in Paris under Jean-Martin Charcot, located insanity or degeneracy in the realm of ideation, specifically in the separation of the realm of ideation from the realm of action: We know forms of sexual perversion in which the sufferers never experience the impulse to seek satisfaction in acts, and who revel only in thought. This astonishing rupture of the natural connection between idea and movement, between thought and act, this detachment of the organs of will and movement from the organs of conception and judgment which they normally obey, is in itself a proof of deepest disorder throughout the machinery of thought. (183)4

Degeneration was dedicated to Cesare Lombroso, whose Criminal Man, in which Lombroso developed his famous theory of the born criminal marked by physical and psychological abnormalities, was first published in 1876. Lombroso called his new field of research ‘criminal anthropology.’ Having worked as a military doctor during the wars of Italian unification, he used soldiers to develop his approach of measuring and observing the bodies of his patients. He compared the morally insane with the criminal in terms of the skull, physiognomy, analgesia, tattooing, sexuality, moral sense, and affection. Lumping together all social undesirables into one undifferentiated group, he compared them to the insane and to control groups of ‘healthy’ men, usually soldiers. Although he rejected phrenology,


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Lombroso inherited the phrenologists’ assumption that ‘exterior corporal features mirror interior mental states,’ claiming that the same factors create a predisposition to both crime and madness: civilization, celibacy, a hot climate, being male, living in an urban area. … Nearly every type of mental abnormality contributes in some way to criminality and … in fact determines the particular crime that is committed. (Lombroso 81, 84)

An early film that hints at the association of insanity with criminality and social class is Rescued by Rover (Hepworth Mfg. Co., 1905). The film tells the story of a poor, alcoholic, homeless woman ‒ whose visual appearance agrees with stereotypical representations of insanity at the time ‒ stealing the baby of a well-to-do woman during a stroll in the park.5 While acknowledging Lombroso’s contribution to the study of degeneracy, Nordau criticized him for focusing only on the physical characteristics of degeneration ‒ what Nordau called ‘stigmata’ ‒ while ignoring stigmata of a ‘mental order’, of which Nordau proceeded to give examples from the work of particular fin-de-siècle artists, writers and philosophers. However, he also insisted on a parallelism between thought and movement, claiming that a healthy association of ideas is exactly matched by a healthy co-ordination of movements: ‘As with defective attention there ensues no intelligent thought, so with faulty co-ordination there can be no appropriate movement. Palsy is equivalent to idiocy’ (66). In short, even as he shifted the emphasis from physical stigmata to mental physiognomy, Nordau did not completely reject the assumption that mental defects are immediately visible; that is, that they are manifested in physical ones. Significantly, Nordau saw the line between normality and degeneracy in terms of attention, more specifically in terms of a gap between the input of external stimuli and the subject’s motor response to those stimuli (the transformation of idea into action): With the incapacity for action there is connected the predilection for inane reverie. The degenerate is not in a condition to fix his attention long, or indeed at all, on any subject, and is equally incapable of correctly grasping, ordering or elaborating into ideas and judgments the impressions of the external world conveyed to his distracted consciousness by his defectively operating senses. It is easier and more convenient for him to allow his brain-centers to produce semi-lucid, nebulously blurred ideas and inchoate embryonic thoughts, and

The Story of At tention: Toward a Dynamic Model of the Self


to surrender himself to the perpetual obfuscation of a boundless, aimless, and shoreless stream of fugitive ideas; and he rarely rouses himself to the painful attempt to check or counteract the capricious and, as a rule, purely mechanical association of ideas and succession of images, and bring under discipline the disorderly tumult of his fluid presentations. (21)

Degeneracy, Nordau suggested, is a form of inattentiveness, a break in the psychic-motor apparatus of stimulation and response, a gap separating stimulus from response; a gap that for Bergson (whose Matter and Memory was published four years after Degeneration, in 1896) constitutes the human as such, the fundamental difference between mind and matter.6 For Bergson, the gap signified a resistance to the merely automated response to external stimuli; for Nordau, however, it was precisely the failure to respond to external stimuli (to externalize thought into action) that was a sign of ‘automated’ or ‘mechanical’ existence. Nordau assumed that the structuring of a random series of associations into conscious thought and action is a natural process, which, when stopped or prevented, leads to degeneracy.7 Conversely, for Bergson, inattention, diffusion and reverie characterize our natural state of mind, which only a special effort can transform into conscious action. Like the majority of his contemporaries, Nordau attributed degeneracy to urbanization. Throughout his writing he regularly resorts to a familiar, vitalist rhetoric, arguing that people become prone to degeneracy due to having an insufficient amount of vital energy: The inhabitant of a large town, even the richest, who is surrounded by the greatest luxury, is continuously exposed to unfavorable influences which diminish all his vital powers far more than what is inevitable. He breathes an atmosphere charged with organic detritus; he eats stale, contaminated, adulterated food; he feels himself in a state of constant nervous excitement. … The effect of a large town on the human organism offers the closest analogy to that of the Maremma, and its population falls victim to the same fatality of degeneracy and destruction as the victims of malaria. All … activities, even the simplest, involve an effort of the nervous system and a wearing of tissue. Every line we read or write, every human face we see, every conversation we carry on, every scene we perceive through the window of the flying express, sets in activity our sensory nerves and our brain centers. (35, 39)


Warped Minds

Hysteria and degeneracy are the products of fatigue, which manifests as involuntary movements and ‘inane reverie’; in fact, Nordau uses the terms ‘hysterical’ and ‘involuntary’ (automated, unconscious, inattentive) synonymously: One knows that among the hysterical [involuntary!] symmetry of movements frequently shows itself in a very characteristic manner. … A phenomenon which shows itself in a very marked way in serious hysteria is that peculiar excitability which demonstrates that the energy of the voluntary movements, through peripheral stimulations or mental presentations, suffers rapid and transitory modifications. … This excitability can be equally manifested during fatigue. … Fatigue constitutes a true temporary experimental hysteria. It establishes a transition between the states we call normal and the various states which we designate hysteria. One can change a normal into a hysterical individual by tiring him. (36-37)8

Nordau’s rhetoric of flow, energy and vital force betrays the direct influence of some of the period’s technological inventions on the constitution of subjectivity. Nordau argues that past historical upheavals, such as the discovery of America or the Reformation, stirred men’s minds but did not cause fundamental changes in their material life. This was not so with the turn of the century, when steam and electricity have turned the customs of life of every member of the civilized nations upside down. … Many affections of the nervous system already bear a name, which implies that they are a direct consequence of certain influences of modern civilization. The terms ‘railway-spine’ and ‘railway-brain’ … show that [pathologists] recognize them as due partly to the effects of railway accidents, partly to the constant vibrations undergone in railway travelling. (37, 41)

The railway, in particular, contributed to the reconceptualization of trauma as a mental rather than a physical disorder, ‘following the realization that victims of railway and other accidents often suffered delayed physical and psychological symptoms.’9 Degeneration pointed to the increasing obsolescence of purely physiological explanations of insanity. Nordau emphasized the social/historical factors in the rise of cases of insanity ‒ the pressures of urban life in industrialized societies ‒ implying that the main causes and the main symptoms of insanity were mental, rather than physical. Degeneracy was

The Story of At tention: Toward a Dynamic Model of the Self


gradually decoupled from its link to heredity and medical causes, from the notion of physical physiognomy and physical stigmata; instead, degeneracy and insanity began to be construed as only a step away from normality (hence Nordau’s belief that one can drive a normal person to hysteria simply by tiring him). Pathology (degeneracy) was now seen as the result of an excess of sensory impressions and organic reactions, a surplus that led to the exhaustion of the vital force. Inattentiveness and distraction were symptoms of malfunctioning attention or a malfunctioning association of ideas, which depends on habitual responses to external stimuli based on the memory-images of similar past stimuli: To put it popularly, the cell is able to remember its impressions. If now a new, although it may be a weaker, disturbance, reach this cell, it rouses in it an image of similar stimuli which had previously reached it. … Memory is therefore the first condition of normal brain activity. … Every stimulus that reaches a cell will take the line of least resistance, and this will be set out for it along those nerve-tracks, which it has already traversed. Thus a definite path is formed for the course of a stimulus-wave, a customary line of march; it is always the same nerve cells which exchange mutually their stimulus-waves. (47-49)

The four laws according to which ideas are associated are those of similarity, contrast, simultaneity and contiguity (occurrence in the same place) (50). When the association of ideas works properly, the perception of a ray of light, of a tone, is sufficient in order instantly to produce the presentation of the object. … To the brain without association of ideas that perception would only convey the presentation of having something bright or sonant in front of it. In addition, presentations would be aroused which had nothing in common with this bright or sonant something. (51)

The ‘degenerate’ brain, then, works inefficiently: instead of taking the path of least resistance, it allows presentations that have nothing to do with the present stimulus; it fails to match past perceptions with present ones based on the four laws of association. Likewise, the degenerate brain stops acting as a screen for external stimuli; that is, it fails the test of attention: What is attention? … [A]ttention is the faculty of the brain to suppress one part of the memory-images which, at each excitation of a cell or


Warped Minds

group of cells, have arisen in consciousness, by way either of association or of stimulus-wave; and to maintain another part, namely, only those memory-images which relate to the exciting cause i.e. to the object just perceived. … Inability to be attentive accompanies all forms of exhaustion. Untended and unrestrained by attention, the brain activity of the degenerate and hysterical is capricious, and without aim or purpose. Through the unrestricted play of association representations are called into consciousness, and are free to run riot there. They are aroused and extinguished automatically; and the will does not interfere to strengthen or to suppress them. (52, 56)

The degenerate’s thoughts and actions are unmotivated, unjustified, and unconscious: ‘For the impulse to act and think originate, for the degenerate, in the unconscious, and consciousness finds subsequent, and in some measure plausible, reasons for the thoughts and deeds, the real source of which is unknown to itself’ (110-111). Nordau points to the case of dual personality as the epitome of degeneracy. Specifically, he refers to the brothers Janet (Pierre Janet’s 1886 Les Actes inconscients et le dédoublement de la personalité and Paul Janet’s 1888 L’Hystérie et l’hypnotisme d’après la theories de la double personnalité), who explain the phenomenon of dual personality thus: ‘Every person consists of two personalities, one conscious and one unconscious. Among healthy persons both are alike complete, and both in equilibrium. In the hysteric they are unequal, and out of equilibrium. One of the two personalities, usually the conscious, is incomplete, the other remaining perfect.’10 The conscious part is incomplete in the sense that it has no recollections of the actions of the unconscious part, whereas the unconscious part is fully aware of the primary (conscious) state and is therefore complete. In the degenerate, the conscious part of the personality has to devise reasons and excuses for the actions of the unconscious part. Degeneracy, then, is associated with a lack of self-presence (one-directional amnesia). The imbecile or the degenerate is prone to moods, incapable of describing clearly his thoughts; ‘he thinks merely according to the laws of association ‘and without the red thread of attention. He has fugitive ideation’ (118). Having identified these general characteristics of degeneracy, Nordau proceeds to offer examples from the art of his contemporaries. He claims that modern art ‒ especially mysticism, Symbolism and Impressionism, and the writings of Ibsen, Tolstoy, Zola, Nietzsche, Baudlaire, Wagner, Dante and Gabriel Rossetti ‒ displays all the symptoms of morbid mental pathology.11 For example, he demonstrates the mental debility of symbolist

The Story of At tention: Toward a Dynamic Model of the Self


poetry by referring to its attempt to emulate music and painting (words as musical tones, sounds as provoking a definite feeling of color); that is, its striving for synesthesia, and to its ‘combination of completely disconnected nouns and adjectives, which suggest each other, either through a senseless meandering by way of associated ideas, or through a similarity of sound’ (126). Transposition of the senses, such as we discover in synesthesia, is typical among hysterics and thus, in his opinion, a sign of degeneracy. Sanity is a matter of maintaining proper boundaries between oneself and reality, between all of one’s sensations and thoughts: In any case, it is an evidence of diseased and debilitated brain-activity if consciousness relinquishes the advantages of the differentiated perception of phenomena, and carelessly confounds the reports conveyed by the particular senses. It is a retrogression to the very beginning of organic development. … To raise the combination, transposition and confusion of the perceptions of sound and sight to the rank of a principle of art … is to designate as progress the return from the consciousness of man to that of the oyster. (142)

Natural development always proceeds from the simple to the complex, where ‘the complex’ and thus ‘progress’ is exemplified by increasing differentiation of human faculties or of the different arts (each art becoming autonomous), rather than by the non-differentiation of human faculties or the fusion of the arts (synesthesia). Nordau concludes his examination of the mental epidemic affecting his contemporaries with the following diagnosis: From a clinical point of view … these pathological pictures [mysticism, ego-mania, agoraphobia, mania of doubt, nervous irritability, etc.] are nevertheless only different manifestations of a single and unique fundamental condition, to wit, exhaustion, and they must be ranked by the alienist in the genus melancholia, which is the psychiatrical symptom of an exhausted central nervous system. (536)

Curiously enough, having spent hundreds of pages drawing the boundaries between normalcy and degeneracy, Nordau ends his study by acknowledging that the difference between disease and health is not one of kind, but of quantity. … But who shall determine with accuracy the exact point


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at which deviation from the normal, i.e., from health, begins? The insane brain performs its functions according to precisely the same laws as the rational brain, but it obeys these laws either imperfectly or excessively. (552-553, my italics)

Thus, contrary to his own intentions, Nordau contributed to a developing holistic discourse of the fluctuating self, which ‘rebelled against the artificial machine-models of mind and brain favored by the nineteenth century.’12 The new holism, part of a wider post-Kantian attack on the materialistic basis of associationism, reacted against the nineteenth-century doctrine of cerebral localization, ‘the idea that higher cortical (mental) processes may be broken up into distinct functional units and correlated with discrete areas of the brain’ (Harrington 255). Under the influence of idealism, which had come to dominate intellectual circles, the holists rejected the epistemological arrogance of nineteenth-century empirical science and associationism, foregrounding instead the limits of knowledge and recognizing the world as a construct of one’s subjectivity. The stress in post-Kantian idealism on the limits to our knowledge left room for an almost magical idea, ‘the sudden emphasis within holistic neurology on the dynamic, self-regenerating capacities of the brain’ (260). The phenomenon of recovery from brain damage challenged the associationist model of higher cortical functioning; it ‘was simply incompatible with the nineteenth century “machine” model of the nervous system as a purely mechanical apparatus operating according to fixed laws of reflex and association. Machines do not repair themselves after suffering damage’ (257). Abandoning the localizers-associationists’ idea that undamaged parts of the brain assumed responsibility for the lost functions of the damaged parts of the brain, the holists proposed a dynamic concept of the brain, ‘in which functioning was determined not by rigid structural arrangements, but by the ever-changing reactions of the whole nervous system’ (257). On the one hand, the emphasis on self-regeneration, on the recovery of lost memories, was an expression of ‘a growing disenchantment in early twentieth century central European biology with materialistic metaphysics and reductionism in the life sciences’ (261). At the same time, however, it was also a form of re-enchantment insofar as holism proposed that science could not explain how the mind functions, that mechanical explanations of undamaged parts of the brain standing in for the lost functions of the damaged parts were erroneous, that selfregeneration was scientifically unexplainable through any reference to our material bodies and existence; that it was, in a way, a miracle. The

The Story of At tention: Toward a Dynamic Model of the Self


emphasis on self-regeneration and recovery gave post-Kantian idealists the opportunity to both give skepticism its due and to dispose of skepticism by taking refuge in the newly dynamic disciplines of psychology and psychiatry. By the 1890s, the nineteenth-century hierarchy of attention and inattention, recognition and amnesia was beginning to be reversed, as evidenced by Theodore Ribot’s influential study, The Psychology of Attention (1890).13 Ribot distinguished two forms of attention: spontaneous (the ‘true’, primitive form) and voluntary (the result of imitation and training). Attention, he argued, is an exceptional/abnormal state, the natural state supported by consciousness being diffusion: ‘The normal condition is plurality of states of consciousness, or … polyideism. Attention is the momentary inhibition, to the exclusive benefit of a single state, of this perpetual progression: it is a monoideism’ (10). A plurality of states is the rule, a single fixed state the exception, which suggests that ultimately, all forms of attention are exceptional states: Eliminate first the general routine of life ‒ that enormous mass of habits that move us like automations, with vague and intermittent states of consciousness. Eliminate the periods of our mental life in which we are purely passive simply because the order and succession of our states of consciousness are given to us from without, and because their serial connection is imposed upon us. … Eliminate that state of relative intellectual repose in which people ‘think of nothing’ that is, wherein the states of consciousness have neither intensity nor clear determination: intellectual nonchalance, reverie in all its degrees … And having made these eliminations … we may then credit to the general account of attention that which remains. … And the reason is that attention, by its very nature, more than any other intellectual state, requires a great expenditure of physical force, which has to be produced under particular conditions.14 Let us once more recall that [attention] exists only through a limitation of the field of consciousness, which is equivalent to saying that physically it presupposes the putting into activity of a limited part of the brain. It matters not whether we conceive this part as a localized region, or ‒ which is more probable ‒ as formed of different elements, spread throughout the mass of the encephalon, and working in harmony to the exclusion of the others. The normal state of consciousness supposes diffusion, with the work of the brain diffused. Attention supposes concentration, with the work of the brain localized. (119)


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In other words, if sanity is attained only through a special effort, rather than being something natural to us, insanity ought to be seen only as an extreme form of inattentiveness or distractedness. In his earlier work, The Diseases of the Will (1883), Ribot had already derived his definition of a ‘normal’ state of mind from that of a pathological mental state, arguing that consciousness, or will, can only be studied through its pathology: I shall endeavour to show that in every voluntary act there are two distinct elements, namely the state of consciousness ‒ the ‘I will’ ‒ which indicates a mental situation but which of itself possesses no efficiency; and a highly complex psycho-physiological mechanism in which alone the power of acting or of inhibiting has its seat. … [T]his general conclusion can only be reached as the result of particular conclusions furnished by pathology. (2, my italics)

Pathological mental states are the result of indecision, that is, of the failure to translate ideas into movement: To will is to choose in order to act; such is for us the formula of normal will. The anomalies so far considered may be classed in two great groups: in one impulsion is absent, and no tendency to act appears (aboulia); in the other a too rapid or too intense impulsion prevents the act of choice. The best instance of this is seen in the hysterical constitution. … It is a state in which the conditions of volition are nearly always lacking. … One prominent trait of their [the hysteric’s] character is mobility. From day to day, from hour to hour, from minute to minute, they pass with incredible rapidity from joy to sadness, from laughter to tears. … Their character changes like the views of a kaleidoscope, a fact which led Sydenham justly to remark that inconstancy is their most constant trait. … This extreme mobility in their state of mind and their affectional disposition, this instability of character, this want of fixedness, this absence of stability in their ideas and volitions, explains their incapacity to keep the attention long fixed upon a book, a study or a task of any kind whatever. (29)

Numerous studies corroborated Ribot’s claim that diffusion, rather than attention, is the natural state of consciousness, thereby suggesting new ways of conceptualizing consciousness as an inhibitory mechanism and reversing the negative associations of ‘the unconscious’, ‘the diffused’ and

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‘the multiple’ with ‘insanity’.15 Various cases reported at the end of the nineteenth century demonstrated the difference between spontaneous and artificial somnambulism. For instance, in 1875 L’Académie de Médicine de Belgique asked M. Warlamont to produce a report on the subject of ‘double conscience’, of which there had been many reported cases. His report insisted on ‘la réalité scientifique du phenomena dit “dédoublement de la vie”, “double conscience”, “condition seconde”, états qui peuvent être spontanés ou provoqués’ (16).16 Warlamont recounts the 1875 case of a girl who fell into ‘somnambulism avec catalepsie’ whenever she worked ‘à des bontonnieres’ ‒ a line of work requiring great focus and attention ‒ and concludes that ‘c’était une hystérique qui s’hypnotisait elle-même’ [she hypnotized herself] (14). The more famous case of Felida X was discussed in Dr. Eugene Azam’s 1877 study, Amnésie périodique ou dédoublement de la personnalité. Azam’s use of the term ‘dedoublement de la vie’ departed from the dominant terminology used in American studies at the time, ‘fragmentation of the ego’: Dans cette vie comme dans l’autre, ses facultés intellectuelles et morales, bien que différentes, sont incontestablement entières, aucune idée délirante, aucune fausse appréciation, aucune hallucination, je dirai même que dans ce deuxième état, dans cette condition seconde, toutes ses facultés paraissent plus développées et plus complètes. Cette deuxième vie ou la douleur physique ne se fait pas sentir, est de beaucoup supérieure à l’autre. (8-9)17

In most other cases of amnesia, the patient felt as if they were double but had no memory of their double existence; Felida, however, had no such feeling, and in her ‘second’ state she was able to recall her first state perfectly. Indeed, Felida did not think of herself as being a different person ‒ she always felt ‘semblable à elle-même [one with herself].’ Later in life, Felida’s transition between her two lives started growing shorter and shorter, until eventually, at the age of 32, her second, ‘abnormal’ state began supplanting her first, ‘normal’ state. Azam predicted that her first state would eventually vanish entirely and she would become a new person, completely integrated. Indeed, he observed that gradually, the experience of loss, before the transitioning back into the other state, was becoming so short in duration that Felida was able to dissimulate: she was able to act as if she had not lost her memory and simply waited to get into her other state. The study of the cataleptic girl, along with the study of Felida X, encouraged thinking about consciousness and memory in terms of attention. The


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cataleptic girl became somnambulist whenever she engaged in some form of activity requiring absolute focus and attention. Her somnambulism, in other words, was not the result of a memory dysfunction but, rather, the result of a particular imbalance of attention. The part of her existence to which she was not paying attention while she was focusing on her button-work became irrelevant ‒ it did not produce a strong enough impression upon her or, put differently, made no immediate demands upon her ‒ and, therefore, forgettable/unreal/non-existent. Her case raised the question of whether, given our ability to consciously or purposefully regulate our attention (we can decide to focus on something to the exclusion of everything else), we are also capable of ‘hypnotizing ourselves’. Indeed, Warlamont’s conclusion was precisely that the girl was capable of inducing a somnambulistic state herself. Similarly, Azam interpreted Felida’s amnesia as a loss of attention rather than the result of a memory dysfunction: ‘La plupart du temps, l’amnésie est amenée par le peu d’impressions faites sur le cerveau, par le fait au moment où il s’est passé. On n’oublie pas, parce qu’on ne peut pas se souvenir; on oublie parce que le fait oublié n’a fait qu’une impression insuffisante’ (32).18 Amnesia, then, has nothing to do with memory, in the conventional notion of memory as ‘the ability to recollect’ the past. For Azam, amnesia presupposes at least a minimal awareness that we have lost something: whatever fails to register or become conscious, thus producing amnesia, must have still ‘registered’, however slightly, or else we would be unable to ‘have no memory’ of it. We cannot have a sense of loss if we never had the thing we feel we have lost in the first place. Another study of ‘double consciousness’, though not as popular as Azam’s, A Case of Double Consciousness: Amnesic Type, with Fabrication of Memory, by Edward B. Angell (1906), explained the multiplication of personalities as a strategy for coping with a boring, uneventful life, rather than as an illness. The book recounts the story of a ‘multiple’ who left home one day and ended up in another town, having no recollection of how he had gotten there. The story is told from multiple points of view ‒ that of the man, the doctor, the man’s aunt, his wife, and finally the patient’s own version. Following his recovery (through hypnosis and the use of static electricity ‘to stimulate normal skin sensitivity and reawaken objective consciousness’ (13)),19 the man acknowledged that the events in his account of what had happened to him might or might not have happened, and that there was really no way to tell. His doctor explained that the patient’s consciousness, when in this state, so akin to hysteria, registers fact and fiction alike; makes no discrimination between objective fact and

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subjective image. Such is the condition of the hysteric. Very similar indeed is the mind of the hysterical. There is a subjective, unconscious falsification of memory, a species of amnesia, for the real events of an uneventful existence, and the gap is filled with visions, with real unrealities, with implausible impossibilities. Surely if the facts of such dual existence could be proven, much that has been accepted as actual occurrences during the dispossession of the ego, would be found illusions. They are but shadows of reality, misty radiographs which rapidly fade from the mind when Richard is himself again. (14-15)

Departing from Azam’s idea of the ‘doubling of personality’, Angell denied the existence of a second, distinct personality, preferring to read these experiences as simply the product of an over-stimulated imagination and wishful thinking.20 The work of the psychologist and film theorist Hugo Münsterberg reflects the deep-seated ambivalence that characterizes the attempts, at the turn of the century, to conceptualize ‘mind’, ‘sanity’, ‘abnormality’, ‘reason’, and ‘madness’. Placing Münsterberg’s The Photoplay: A Psychological Study (1916) in the context of his earlier work can illuminate the tension underlining fin-de-siècle culture between the scientific positivist worldview and the period’s ‘anti-intellectualism’, exemplified, among other things, by the growing interest in abnormal mental states and the establishment of a new field of study devoted to them, dynamic psychiatry. Münsterberg saw himself as representing the side of science in this debate; however, his writings testify to the impossibility of separating scientific from aesthetic discourses at a time when scientific claims about the relationship between brain and mind, or between mind and reality, often derived their empirical validity, as we saw earlier, precisely from their aesthetic appeal, and when aesthetic concepts (such as those articulated by early film theory) were often indistinguishable from aestheticized symptoms of certain mental illnesses. The unresolved tension between the scientif ic and the antiintellectual aspect of fin-de-siècle culture becomes especially clear when we juxtapose The Photoplay with Psychology and Crime (1909) and Psychology and Social Sanity (1912), in both of which Münsterberg defends the scientific worldview in the face of the anti-intellectualism of his age, only at the price of acknowledging the existence of the irrational and the unconscious and declaring them legitimate objects of scientific study. Contrary to The Photoplay, in which Münsterberg tried to provide a rational explanation of the film experience by demonstrating the homology between film form and the structure of the human mind, thus anticipating later developments


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in cognitive theory, Münsterberg’s earlier works, filled with case studies refuting dated, anti-scientific views of unexplainable phenomena, amassed enough evidence to demonstrate the extent to which people’s everyday lives (not just the lives of the mentally insane) are ruled by irrational forces beyond their control. For example, in Psychology and Crime Münsterberg discusses a wide range of cases of false memories or illusions, which he attributes to inattentiveness or distraction.21 In one of his experiments, Münsterberg stood on a platform, behind a low desk, and asked his audience to observe closely what he was doing. In his right hand, he had a little revolving wheel that changed color as he turned it; with his left hand, he did all sorts of things (put his watch on the desk, took out a cigarette, etc.). Most of the people in the audience did not even register what he was doing with his left hand because, he explains, they were focusing only on his right hand: ‘Whatever they expect to see they do see; and if the attention is turned in one direction, they are blind and deaf and idiotic in the other’ (31). Münsterberg concludes that not only are we ‘blind and deaf’ when it comes to the things to which we are not attentive, we cannot even be certain about what we think we must have perceived or recollected clearly because we were focusing all our attention on it. It is because our perceptions are inherently impure, always permeated by associations, memories, judgments, and suggestions (33), that in many of Münsterberg’s experiments, audience members repeatedly disagree on what they are shown. On the other hand, as Münsterberg demonstrates in the chapter ‘The Memory of the Witness’, which is devoted to recollection errors, while some people feel certain about recollected images on account of the vividness of the image, others are certain of their recollections because they do not contradict previous similar recollections; in other words, they are cognitively, rather than visually, certain. Such experiments demonstrate that the feeling of certainty stands in no definite relation to the attention with which the objects are observed. If we turn our attention with strongest effort to certain parts of a complex impression, we may yet feel in our recollection more certain about those parts of which we hardly took notice than about those to which we devoted our attention. (56)

The point Münsterberg wanted to make, experimentally, was that false memories and illusions or, more generally, any supposedly unexplainable phenomena ‒ such as the experiment mentioned above ‒ actually have a

The Story of At tention: Toward a Dynamic Model of the Self


simple rational explanation, as long as we recognize that human perception, and consciousness in general, works through selection. When I am looking at something, I tend not to see that which remains outside my field of vision, just as when I am listening to a noise, I tend not to hear all other noises around me. Generally speaking, I am conscious only of a limited part of my existence, most of which remains unconscious, but this, Münsterberg insisted, does not make my experience rationally unexplainable. In reality, however, his explanations of what appeared to be unexplainable phenomena merely demonstrated that what we had assumed to be primary states (perception, consciousness) were actually secondary states concealing the real primary states (dreams, unconsciousness). In short, and contrary to what his own intentions might have been, Münsterberg suggested that it was no longer the irrational, the unconscious or the abnormal that had to be explained, but the other way around: if consciousness is produced at the cost of suppressing a great part of our experience, if the irrational and the unconscious constitute our primary state, then the question science has to ask is not ‘why are there insane people?’ but rather ‘why aren’t all people insane?’ Seen in this context, Münsterberg’s numerous examples of inattentiveness do not explain away the unconscious, the irrational or the insane, but instead open up the way for re-conceiving the cogito as inherently split or multiple; ‘dissociative disorders’, for instance, appear to be constitutive of human identity, rather than strictly pathological. After all, if there are so many aspects of our existence of which we remain unaware, or to which we are inattentive, the splitting or multiplication of personality can no longer be seen as pathological but as a dramatization of the normal co-existence of multiple attentive and inattentive selves. Put differently, ‘inattention’ implies multiplicity and/or dissociation. From this point of view, multiple personality can no longer be explained through the medical model: it appears simply to be a more extreme form of absent-mindedness. In The Psychology of Crime, Münsterberg explored an ‘abnormal’ state of mind of paramount importance in Bergson’s work, déjà vu: An idea is there distinctly coupled with the feeling of remembrance and recognition, and yet it is only an associated sensation, resulting from fatigue or excitement, and without the slightest objective basis in the past. … We must always keep in mind that a content of consciousness is in itself independent of its relation to the past and has thus in itself no mark which can indicate whether it was experienced once before or not. The feeling of belonging to our past life may associate itself thus just as well with a perfectly new idea of our imagination


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as with a real reproduction of an earlier state of mind. As a matter of course, the opposite can thus happen, too; that is, an earlier experience may come to our memory stripped of any reference to the past, standing before our mind as a completely new product of imagination. … Yes, we fill the blanks of our perception constantly with bits of reproduced memory material and take those reproductions for immediate impressions. In short, we never know from the material itself whether we remember, perceive or imagine. (58, 60-61)

In other words, consciousness does not temporalize itself, for if we cannot distinguish what we perceive (the present) from what we imagine or remember (the future and the past), it is because none of these experiences comes with the time stamped on it; in other words, we do not experience time directly, immediately. There is no central organizing agency in charge of categorizing experiences in their respective temporal slots: the experience of ‘pastness’ can ‘associate itself’ with any other experience (although it remains unclear how this association comes about if there is no motivating force behind it). Münsterberg’s account of false memory inevitably led to the conclusion that if there is no standard or rule according to which memories, perceptions and premonitions associate themselves with one another, which accounts for mistakes and false memories, then there cannot be such a rule, period (if there were such a rule, false memory would be impossible). For Münsterberg, the very possibility of false memory meant that time is not an inherent characteristic of our experience and, therefore, even those perceptions and memories we believe to be ‘normal’ (not ‘false’) operate according to exactly the same laws of association, that is, the same lawlessness: our experiences of events as present, past or future are inherently random and thus false (‘false’ here signifies ‘random’, ‘arbitrary’). Münsterberg envisioned consciousness as a vast collection or series of ideas, feelings or states, which associate with one another arbitrarily. The feeling of certainty in recollecting something has nothing to do with how much attention we have paid to it (thus often we are far more certain of things to which we paid absolutely no attention at the time than we are of the things on which we were supposedly focusing) and, similarly, the experience of something as past, present or future has nothing to do with some deeply subjective authentic experience of time: past, present and future are constructed as such in relation to one another rather than in relation to a centralizing agency (the subject). As it became increasingly hard to continue to conceive the self as selfpresent and transparent, rather than self-unaware and absent, the only way

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for science to maintain its status was not only to acknowledge the existence of unconscious or irrational mental states, but also to insist that these could be rationally explained, that there could be a ‘science of the irrational’. Studying the irrational with the methods of positivist science did not mean excluding practices like hypnosis, somnambulism, or automatic writing, all of which were, at the time, seen as perfectly scientific. Mediums underwent a similar endorsement: previously, the work of mediums had been seen as supernatural or fraudulent, but at the end of the nineteenth century, such phenomena were given more naturalistic, psychological explanations. In Spiritualistic Madness (1877), L.S. Forbes Winslow, a British psychiatrist, called spiritualism ‘the curse of our age, and one of the principal causes of the increase of insanity in England, and especially of that desponding and melancholic type known as “religious insanity”, so prevalent in the present century. … This form of delusion is very prevalent in America and the asylums contain many of its victims’.22 In Psychology and Social Sanity Munsterberg offered a similarly scathing critique of the upsurge in antiintellectual and anti-medical movements, which transformed mystics, psychic readers, mediums, and other types of ‘charlatans’ into ‘stars.’ He isolated what he believed to be the most pressing social problem of the time: the unwarranted skepticism toward scientific method, for which he blamed superstitious ‘astrologists and palmists … scientific mediums and spiritualists … the quacks and prophets’ (Psychology and Social Sanity 136), all of whom were responsible for the ‘intellectual perversities and infectious diseases’ of the age, ‘the moral perversities of metropolitan life’ (137). ‘There are too many who cannot think in straight lines,’ Münsterberg complained, ‘and to whom the most absurd linking of facts is the most satisfactory answer to any question’ (118).23 He specified that he did not mean the truly insane, but rather ‘the sinners who sin against logic, while their minds are undiseased’ (119). These ‘sinners’ developed absurd theories that were nevertheless worth studying insofar as they revealed ‘abnormal mental states’: ‘Here it is not real insanity; but all kinds of abnormal impulses and ideas, of psychasthenic emotions, of neurasthenic disturbances, of hysteric inhibition, are the starting points, and it is only natural that such pathological intrusions should bewilder the patient and induce him to form the wildest theories’ (120). As an example, he points to a series of letters he received from women, all of whom claimed to be able to foresee the future while developing all sorts of fantastic theories to explain their extraordinary abilities. In reality, Münsterberg claims, at the root of all such theories is some form of memory disturbance: ‘Commonly it is the widespread tendency of women to accompany a scene with the feeling that


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they have experienced it once before’ (120). Although he does not explain the specific reasons for his odd gendering of this condition, on a more general level he correlates the increasing regularity of feelings of déjà vu with the fatigue that is characteristic of modern urban life. Psychology and Social Sanity aimed to disperse prevailing superstitions about mentally abnormal states by recognizing them as legitimate objects of scientific study. For instance, Münsterberg proposed that abnormal states, experiences, or skills ‒ such as mind reading ‒ result from a subject’s extreme sensitivity to outside stimuli that have failed to reach her consciousness. There is nothing magical about abnormal mental states: they are simply cases in which the subject responds to external stimuli in an unconscious, automated, unmotivated way. But why would a subject respond to external stimuli in this way in the first place? How does one account for the veritable ‘epidemic’ of mediums, mind readers and other people with extra-sensual abilities at the turn of the century? Münsterberg’s reflections on the fatigue that is characteristic of modern urban life, which forces the mind to develop a defense mechanism to protect itself from the barrage of external stimuli, offer a tentative answer to this question. Unable to register all incoming stimuli, the mind allows itself to be affected by them without completing the process, without rendering them conscious. In this respect, the modern mind is essentially a large reserve of unprocessed, unconscious impressions, which, upon being suddenly released, appear magical (unmotivated/irrational) both to the subject and to those around her. The only way science can sweep away old superstitions that present such experiences as magical ‒ the only way science can replace magic with logic ‒ is to recognize the reality of this largely unknown reserve of unprocessed impressions. The old realm of magic is thereby transformed into the realm of the unconscious, which is then promptly endowed with magical functions. Thus magic, previously assumed to exist ‘outside’ us, ‘beyond’ reason and ‘beyond’ the senses, becomes incorporated into the mind at the price of splitting it into ‘the conscious’ and ‘the unconscious’. Within this new framework, the unconscious is aligned with a heightened sensitivity to external stimuli or, put differently, with a malfunctioning defense mechanism: whenever the screen that consciousness erects between itself and the myriad external stimuli malfunctions or becomes almost non-existent, a greater number of external stimuli affect the subject without necessarily being consciously registered. Yet if we were to follow this model of screened/screening consciousness, we would have to conclude that abnormal mental states actually constitute a fuller, more authentic experience precisely by virtue of their inclusiveness: they do not discriminate against/between external stimuli. From this point

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of view, paradoxically, the loss of identity or the loss of memory is not really a symptom of a malfunctioning mind but just the opposite, a return to a fuller, more authentic state in which the world is no longer ‘screened’ from the mind. The ‘loss’ of identity or memory is the loss of the screen through which that identity or memory is constituted in the first place (through the process of screening out certain impressions and using the rest to constitute an illusory sense of a singular, self-sufficient identity). We can follow the transformation of ‘magic’ into ‘logic’ ‒ that is, the process whereby consciousness is forced to become ‘magical’ (splitting into conscious and unconscious) precisely at the moment of delivering itself from magic ‒ in Münsterberg’s account of the strange case of a mind reader, the little Beulah Miller of Warren, RI. Münsterberg set out to prove there was nothing magical or mystical about the girl’s ‘performances’, all of which, he insisted, could be explained rationally. What others called ‘mind reading’ was, in fact, the result of the girl’s mind registering things (such as the inconspicuous movements with which those participating in the experiments would hide a card or a coin) of which she herself would remain unaware. For example, while her family members were thinking of possible places to hide their cards, they would unconsciously and inconspicuously move their hands in that direction. The girl, endowed with an unusually heightened sensitivity, would unconsciously register their subtle, unconscious gestures and ‘guess’ where the cards were hidden: ‘Where no signs are given which reach her senses, she cannot read anyone’s mind. But the signs she receives are not noticed by her consciously. She is not really aware of them; they go to her brain or to her subconscious mind and work from there on her conscious mind’ (162-3). To those who objected that the girl could not have seen those unintended signs, since she was focusing on the ceiling, Münsterberg responded that her behavior made perfect sense from a psychological point of view: when we fix our look on an object, ‘we are most sensitive to slight movement impressions on the side parts of our eye, and … this sensitiveness is often abnormally heightened’ (166). Paradoxically, we are especially sensitive to things to which we pay no attention; conversely, we often lose our sensitivity to that on which all our attention is purposefully fixed. Hysterical patients, in particular, exhibit this kind of hypersensitivity: ‘They may not hear what is said to them or see what is shown to them, and yet it makes an impression on them and works on their minds, and they are later able to bring it to their memory and it may guide their actions, but on account of their diseases those impressions do not really reach their conscious minds’ (161). We do not, however, have to go to such extreme cases of hypnotism or hysteria; in our daily lives, ‘we


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can all remember experiences when impressions reached our eyes or ears and yet were not noticed at the time, although they guided our actions’ (161). For Münsterberg, an abnormal mental state, such as mind reading, is not fantastic or irrational, but a sort of a ‘side effect’ of heightened sensitivity; put differently, the irrational, the abnormal, and the unconscious are inherent in our senses. In the end, Münsterberg was forced to put forward the contradictory claim that the unconscious falls within the object of scientific study ‒ it is not ‘fantastic’ or ‘magical’ ‒ even as he defined the unconscious as that which lies outside consciousness and thus, presumably, beyond scientific explanation. The fantastic is not fantastic at all, but simply irrational, the result of a heightened sensitivity; at the same time, however, science cannot explain the irrational because the senses are not subsumable under reason or accountable to it.24 In fin-de-siècle culture, sanity and insanity were understood mainly in terms of attention: reason, sanity and normality were associated with attentiveness, while madness was conceived as a kind of inattentiveness, distractedness or disinterestedness. The deranged mind drifts from one transient perception or thought to another rather than responding efficiently ‒ and in a timely manner ‒ to external stimuli. At the same time, it was becoming increasingly clear that attention ‒ and therefore sanity ‒ was something one had to work for. Consciousness seemed to depend on a complicated system of inhibitory mechanisms designed to discipline our natural, primary states of dream, unconsciousness, and involuntary memory. Rethinking consciousness as memory, and rethinking both in terms of attention, led scholars and scientists at the turn of the century to the conclusion that the ‘normal’ self is inherently de-centered, that the multiplicity of the self might not actually be a form of pathology. Traditionally, amnesia discourses had relied on the notion of a self-temporalizing consciousness, which maintained the ‘proper’ distinction between the past, present and future self. In Matter and Memory (1896), however, Bergson proposed to think of mind in terms of memory ‒ mind is distinguished from matter by virtue of the fact that matter is deprived of memory ‒ thereby linking amnesia to the unconscious: hence the idea that the ‘forgotten’ is simply that which we have not perceived consciously; that is, the unconscious. For Bergson, as for Azam, amnesia no longer has to do exclusively with the past: to be amnesiac is not to be fully conscious of/attentive to what is going on ‘now’, that is, amnesia does not presuppose that at some point in the past we knew something but then we forgot it. The temporalized concept of consciousness is predicated on the privileging of the present as a stable point of

The Story of At tention: Toward a Dynamic Model of the Self


reference, from which one remembers or fails to remember. In this model, amnesia does not really threaten the unity and stability of the self because even if one fails to remember, one fails to remember from this particular, and stable, point in the present. In Bergson’s understanding of amnesia, however, there is no such stable point of reference for remembering and for failing to remember: one’s present is no longer privileged because now it can actually be the object (rather than the subject) of memory and/or amnesia: for example, in her ‘second’ state, Felida X could perfectly recollect her supposedly primary state. If we imagine consciousness as a broad field, Bergson suggested, any point within that field can become a temporary reference point temporally organizing the rest of the field; thus, Bergson claimed, it is possible to ‘remember forward’. Bergson was instrumental in redeeming insanity from being an illness to being a coping strategy; indeed, to being a desirable mental state in which our full potential as human beings is finally realized. Following up on Angell’s notion of insanity as the product of an over-stimulated imagination, Bergson emphasized the similarities between the insane and the dreamer. He first presented his theory of dreams in a lecture before the Institut de Psychologie, on March 26, 1901. In Dreams he set out to discredit physiological theories of the mind; in particular, he employed the concept of insanity to demonstrate that mental states are not equivalent to brain states. The insane, he argued, have an extended mental life similar to that of the dreamer. Elaborating further on Ribot’s premise that the normal state of consciousness is diffusion, Bergson declared both madness (particularly the doubling/multiplication of personality)25 and dreams to be the substratum of mental life, claiming that the real question is not why some people are mad but rather why we are not all mad, or why we are not all dreaming all the time. In his 1913 opening address before the British Society for Psychical Research, of which he was the elected President, Bergson argued as follows: The role of the brain is to bring back the remembrance of an action, to prolong the remembrance in movements. If one could see all that takes place in the interior of the brain, one would find that that which takes place there corresponds to a small part only of the life of the mind. The brain simply extracts from the life of the mind that which is capable of representation in movement. The cerebral life is to the mental life what the movements of the baton of a conductor are to the Symphony. The brain, then, is that which allows the mind to adjust itself exactly to circumstances. It is the organ of attention to life. Should it become deranged, however slightly, the mind is no longer fitted to


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the circumstances; it wanders, dreams. Many forms of mental alienation are nothing else. But from this it results that one of the roles of the brain is to limit the vision of the mind, to render its actions more efficacious. This is what we observe in regard to memory, where the role of the brain is to mask the useless part of our past in order to allow only the useful remembrance to appear. Certain useless recollections, or dream remembrances, manage nevertheless to appear also, and to form a vague fringe around the distinct recollections. It would not be at all surprising if perceptions of the organs of our senses, useful perceptions, were the result of a selection or of a canalization worked by the organs of our senses in the interest of our action, but that there should yet be around those perceptions a fringe of vague perceptions, capable of becoming more distinct in extraordinary, abnormal cases.26

Bergson viewed mental alienation and madness as extreme cases in which the human mind reveals its full potential, going beyond merely responding to the practical demands of the present. In his view, the distinction between sanity and insanity corresponded to the distinction between the brain (which functions as an inhibitory organ) and the mind. According to cerebral theories, which assume the parallelism between brain and mind/ thought, diseases of word-memory are caused by lesions of the brain that are more or less localizable; if a word-memory disappears, this must be because the cell or plate on which the word was recorded has been destroyed: ‘Impressions made by external objects are supposed to subsist in the brain as it were on a sensitive plate or a phonographic disk’ (Mind-Energy 51). But such comparisons are false, argued Bergson, because they do not take into account the constant changes the human mind is undergoing. The visual recollection of an object or person is not an impression left on the brain (so that if the brain were damaged, the impression would be damaged too): ‘impression’ implies a fixed state, whereas, in fact, everything we perceive is in a constant state of flux. Although the mind is embodied, this does not mean that there is an equivalence between cerebral and mental states: the mind is undeniably attached to the brain, but from this it does not in the least follow that every detail of the mind is pictured in the brain, nor that the mind is a function of the brain (36). At the same time, however, the brain is the organ of attention to life. That is why there needs to be but a slight modification of the cerebral substance for the whole mind to be affected. I have referred to the effect of certain toxins on the consciousness, and more generally to

The Story of At tention: Toward a Dynamic Model of the Self


the influence of cerebral disease on mental life. In these cases is it the mind itself, and not rather the mechanism of the insertion of the mind in things, which is deranged? When a madman raves, his reasoning may conform to the strictest logic. … What is wrong is not that he reasons badly but that his reasoning has lost contact with actuality, as when one is dreaming [madness is a kind of dreaming]. (47)

The brain can be affected partially or fully: ‘In fact, the loosening of the tension, or rather of the attention to life, which keeps the mind fixed on the part of the material world which concerns its action, such is the only direct result of cerebral derangement’ (48). Madness is similar to dreaming insofar as both are states of disinterestedness: losing interest in the present becomes manifest in an inability to respond quickly and efficiently to the demands of the present, to the wide range of sensations and impressions that reach us. ‘Madness’, then, is a failure to respond to external stimuli and/or a failure to translate internal ideas into actions or movements. In other words, mental alienation points to a ‘glitch’ in the automatic processing of stimuli. Bergson insisted that it is impossible to separate perception from memory, or consciousness from dreams. When we dream, our perception is not turned off: we continue to hear external sounds, and continue to have visual sensations (we see brilliant points against a black background and they move constantly, the ‘visual dust’ of which dreams are made). So our sensations continue to be active, though with less precision: [I]n compensation they embrace a host of ‘subjective’ impressions which pass unperceived when we are awake ‒ for then we live in a world of perceptions common to all men [i.e. dreams individualize the typical sensations which characterize our ‘normal’ waking life] ‒ and which reappear in sleep, when we live only for ourselves. Thus our faculty of sense perception, far from being narrowed during sleep at all points, is on the contrary extended. … It is true that it often loses in energy, in tension, what it gains in extension. It brings to us only confused impressions. These impressions are the materials of our dreams. But they are only the materials, they do not suffice to produce them. (Mind-Energy 31-31)

What produces the dream is memory, which inserts itself in these vague sensual perceptions and focuses them. (Note that Bergson reverses the conventional way of thinking of memories as vague and of perceptions as clear; instead, he argues that sensations and perceptions are vague until


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memory clarifies them.) Specifically, it is involuntary memory, which makes the sense impressions precise. In a waking state we also have memories, but they are closely related to the present situation. Behind these memories are others; in fact, all our past life is there, ‘preserved even to the most infinitesimal details’ (37). These slumbering memories are awakened when I find myself disinterested in the present situation; when I am asleep, for example. Ultimately there is no distinction between the waking and the dream/sleep state: ‘The birth of a dream is then no mystery. It resembles the birth of all our perceptions’ (41). Our perception of an object is made up almost entirely of memories of it. When I am reading a book, not all words come into my consciousness (reading is filling in the blanks, guessing): ‘All the rest, that you think you see, you really give yourself as an hallucination’ (42). In fact, the insertion of this hallucination or memory into a real frame speeds up the whole process: it accelerates what otherwise would have been a slow process of perceiving every individual letter. It was becoming increasingly clear that attention ‒ and therefore sanity ‒ was by no means a state one would describe as ‘natural’ to us; on the contrary, sanity and consciousness now appeared as ‘selections’ within a vast, nebulous realm, alternatively called Pure Memory (Bergson) or the unconscious (Freud). Inasmuch as the photograph framed a portion of the world, it served as an appropriate metaphor for the new understanding of the brain/mind relationship in terms of ‘selection’. Bergson made use of that metaphor when he compared the brain to a frame and the mind to a picture: The frame determines something of the picture, by eliminating beforehand all which has not the same shape and size. … So also with the brain and consciousness. Provided the comparatively simple actions ‒ gestures, attitudes, movements ‒ in which a complex mental state would be materialized, are such as the brain is ready for, the mental state will insert itself exactly into the cerebral state. But there are a multitude of different pictures which would fit the frame equally well; consequently the brain does not determine thought and, at least to a large extent, thought is independent of the brain. (Mind-Energy 42-43)

Bergson’s refusal to distinguish categorically the waking state from the dream state, or perception from memory, was an implicit attack on essentialist theories of sanity and madness, since it suggested that the processes that are characteristic of insanity are always underway under normal circumstances. Nevertheless, among morbid or abnormal mental

The Story of At tention: Toward a Dynamic Model of the Self


states, he distinguished those characterized by a general impoverishment of mental life (amnesia, aphasia, paralysis) from those that actually enrich mental life (hallucination, delirium, obsession). In response to critics who might ‘very well question whether, in the mental domain, disorder and degeneration can really be capable of creating something, and whether the apparently positive characters which give the abnormal phenomenon an aspect of novelty are not … reducible to an internal void, a shortcoming of normality’ (124), he asserted that we do not have to seek the active causes of a particular abnormal process, because this phenomenon was already being manufactured while the conditions were normal; but it was prevented from emerging, when about to appear, by one of those continually active inhibitory mechanisms which secure attention to life. … But if, in the mental domain, disease is unable to create, it can only consist in the slackening or stopping of certain mechanisms, which in the normal state prevent others from having their full effect. If this be so, then, in this case the principal task of psychology is not to explain why certain phenomena are produced in disordered minds, but why they are not found in the normally healthy mind. (125)

Methodologically, dreams and insanity can be approached in a similar way: ‘Now, if dreams are in every respect an imitation or counterfeit of insanity, we may expect our remarks on dreams to apply as well to many forms of insanity’ (127). ‘Sanity’, according to Bergson, is the result of inhibiting or stopping certain normal primary mechanisms, which we have posited retrospectively, and erroneously, as abnormal. Dream, madness, false recognition, déjà vu ‒ while these seem like secondary processes, they are, in fact, primary processes, ‘the substratum of our normal state’ (126). The dream is not a fantastical addition to our normal state; on the contrary, ‘that reality of the waking state is gained by limitation, by concentration and by tension of a diffuse psychical life, which is the dream-life. In a sense, the perception and memory we exercise in the dream-state are more natural than those in the waking state’ (126). The waking state eliminates all that is not directly relevant to the present moment and to action to be accomplished, while in the dream state we perceive or recollect for the sake of doing it, for the pleasure of doing it. The aesthetic state of disinterestedness in the usefulness or effectiveness of perception is the primary state, while attention to life ‒ that is, reason ‒ is the result of inhibiting this primary aesthetic state. In short, reason is the product of labor: it is produced at the price of suppressing the primary aesthetic state.


Warped Minds

Bergson’s view of unconsciousness as ‘the great factor in evolution’ (MindEnergy vii-viii)27 anticipated the anti-psychiatry movement of the 1960s, which would rethink sanity as a form of self-subjugation and insanity as a form of radical self-emancipation producing a more ‘authentic’ self. Once attention and consciousness were defined as localizations or limitations of a broader field that is, by nature, diffused, the doubling or multiplication of personality could no longer be described in terms of ‘fragmentation’. On the contrary, the multiplication of personalities could be seen as a positive step toward reclaiming this initial state, while the normal (singular) state seemed to obstruct the attainment of that goal. This reorganization of the mental habits of thinking about consciousness would eventually lead to the gradual redemption of multiplicity from a ‘mental illness’ to a ‘therapeutic strategy’.


Photography and the Construction of Psychopathology at the Fin de Siècle

How was the mind conceptualized at the end of the nineteenth century in psychology, psychiatry and medicine, and how did photography and film affirm or subvert dominant views? To what scientific and medical uses were photography and film put in mental asylums and research laboratories, what was their diagnostic and treatment value, and how did they provide the foundations for the new ‘sciences of mind’? The eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth century were dominated by physiognomic theories of madness, which posited a one-to-one correspondence between mental states and body states: the body was seen as an undistorted image of the mind. Paradoxically, at a time when an objective recording device (the camera) had not yet been invented, skepticism had not yet proven itself as serious a problem as it would become after the invention of photography. Indeed, I would argue that precisely the absence of an external recording/mirroring device (the camera) made it possible to assume the presence of an internal mirror; that is, to conceive of the body as an ‘image’ of the mind. In the second half of the nineteenth century the new media of photography and film contributed to a shift in the understanding of attention, thereby influencing the development of the new sciences of mind (psychology and psychiatry). Challenging the assumption of the mind and the body as ‘coexpressible’ ‒ functioning as ‘mirrors’ of each other ‒ photography and film foreshadowed the ‘discovery’ of the unconscious and were instrumental in the reconceptualization of pathology and the transition from physiognomic to psychological theories of madness. As materialist theories constructing madness as purely organic and visually inscribed gradually gave way to a new understanding of consciousness and sanity in terms of attention, it became increasingly clear that inattention, distraction, automatism or absence from oneself, are, in fact, primary rather than secondary states. Paradoxically, precisely when a sophisticated technology for providing visual records of pathology was introduced, theories of pathology as visually inscribed became obsolete and pathology came to be seen as inherent in normal psychological processes. Photography and film undermined physiognomic theories of insanity, thus blurring the distinction between sanity and insanity and contributing to the ‘discovery’ of the unconscious in three significant ways. First, photography and film gave rise to a new concept of the self as inherently


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theatrical and, by extension, of insanity as performative. As soon as photography and film were ‘invented’ they were used for medical documentation. In 1885, ten years before the first film screening by the Lumière brothers, the first clinical case of a multiple, Louis Vivet, was photographed in his ten personality states. Two years later Albert Dad, the first person whose dissociative fugues were studied in detail, was photographed in his three states (normal, hypnotized and during a fugue).1 Between 1899 and 1902, the Romanian neurologist Gheorghe Marinescu published in French medical journals a series of articles on hysteria, basing his research on cinematographic documents. In 1883 Albert Londe studied the ‘large hysterical arc’ with serial cameras. And yet, as early as 1910, Dr. Hans Hennes of the Provinzial-Heil-und Pflegeanstalt Bonn observed, in his treatise Cinematography in the Service of Neurology and Psychiatry, that, paradoxically, film ‘produced’ madness precisely by providing reliable records of it. Although film was instrumental in what Hacking calls the re-conceptualization of the ‘soul’ ‒ under the new disguise of ‘memory’ ‒ as an object of scientific inquiry, it also contributed to the theatricalization of the cogito, provoking a shift in our understanding of rational thought from Descartes’ notion of the cogito as ‘a perpetual recession of the body’ to the cinematic proof of the cogito through the ‘perpetual visibility of the self, a theatricality in my presence to others, hence to myself.’2 Thus photography and film played an important part in the rethinking of selfhood as a specular process. Writing in the 1880s and 1890s, the French sociologist Gabriel Tarde argued that selfhood originates in imitation, a process he compared to ‘inter-psychical photography’; that is to say, ‘the action which consists of a quasi-photographic reproduction of a cerebral image upon the sensitive plane of another brain.’3 The self is constructed by adopting the gestures and behaviors of those around us in a process similar to that of taking photographs. If self-consciousness is a product of imitation, early cinema made this self-objectification manifest. 4 According to Jonathan Auerbach, ‘the early movie camera functioned as a distinct apparatus of self-objectification, at once triggering self-consciousness and registering it as a visual process.’5 However, as we shall see, this self-objectification had already happened in still photography. Second, through its inherent, technical automatism, photography revealed at the heart of any photographed movement ‒ not only the movements of those diagnosed with some form of insanity ‒ a similar, previously unsuspected, human automatism. Instantaneous photography demonstrated that what appear to be rational, purposeful movements/actions are often carried out automatically or unconsciously. Distraction and inattention ‒

Photography and the Construction of Psychopathology at the Fin de Siècle


absence from oneself ‒ which had previously been considered particular types of pathology, now appeared to be inherent in normal psychological processes. Third, while photography was expected to provide objective records of insanity, most scientific applications of photography were driven by aesthetic concerns. To fully grasp the specific ways in which photography and film challenged materialist theories of insanity, it is necessary to trace the historical transition from physiognomic to psychological theories of madness. The study of physiognomy, which dates back to Aristotle, was revived by Franz Joseph Gall and Charles Bell. Gall, the ‘father’ of phrenology, maintained that personality could be assessed from the shape of the skull and that the brain is a system of connected but individual organs, each corresponding to a specific faculty (hope, language, self-esteem, etc.). Partial insanity resulted from a malfunctioning of a specific part of the brain. Nevertheless, Gall was also among the first to introduce a dynamic angle into his theory, proposing that personality is, at least to a certain degree, shaped by the environment. The chief promoter of physiognomy was the Swiss pastor Johann Kaspar Lavater, whose essays were first published in German in 1772 and later translated into French and English. Like many of his successors, Lavater bolstered the validity of his theories by underscoring their applicability to other areas, most importantly the arts, arguing, for instance, that the physician was similar to the painter and the lover, since they all judge things by their exterior.6 In Physiognomy, or the Corresponding Analogy between the Conformation of the Features and the Ruling Passions of the Soul (Physiognomische Fragmente zur Beförderung der Menschenkenntnis und Menschenliebe, 1775-1778) Lavater described physiognomy as ‘reading the handwriting of nature upon the human countenance’ and insisted on ‘a certain native analogy between the external varieties of the countenance and form, and the internal varieties of the mind’ (3). More importantly, he proposed that because of nature’s transitoriness, one could obtain a better scientific knowledge of man from studying representations of man than studying the man himself: If we could indeed seize the fleeting transitions of nature, or had she her moments of stability, it would then be much more advantageous to contemplate nature than her likeness, but this being impossible, and since likewise few people will suffer themselves to be observed, sufficiently to deserve the name of observation, it is to me indisputable that a better knowledge of man may be obtained from portraits than from nature, she being thus uncertain, thus fugitive. (301)


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Physiognomy, Lavater claimed, is capable of distinguishing ‘what is permanent in the character from what is habitual, and what is habitual from what is accidental’ (11). It offers the most accurate reading of human beings because it gives us what is typical and constant about them, rather than what is always changing and ephemeral: Physiognomy, opposed to pathognomy, is the knowledge of the signs of the passions. Physiognomy therefore teaches the knowledge of character at rest, and pathognomy of character in motion. Character at rest, is taught by the form of the solid and the appearance of the moveable parts while at rest. Character impassioned, is manifested by the moveable parts in motion. (26)

In the section ‘Medicinal Semeiotics’ Lavater further developed the argument that the repetitious and well-regulated contraction of facial muscles produces normal facial expressions, which become deformed when an element of disproportionate change and randomness is introduced into the habitual work of the muscles: Every thing in man is progressive; every thing congenial; form, stature, complexion, hair, skin, veins, nerves, bones, voice, walk, manner, style, passion, love, hatred. One and the same spirit is manifest in all. … Each countenance is indeed subject to momentary change, though not perceptible, even in its solid parts; but these changes are all proportionate: each is measure, each proper and peculiar to the countenance in which it takes place. The capability of change is limited. (33-34)

Lavater was convinced that the physiognomist could draw reliable conclusions from a single part of the face about the whole character of the person, because, far from working in random ways, nature was harmonious and congruous; by contrast, any form of incongruity or heterogeneity, in Lavater’s view, was inherently ‘unnatural’ or ‘abnormal’. Thus, if one were to combine the features of four different faces (one mouth, another nose, etc.), the result would be folly: ‘Folly is, perhaps, nothing more than the emendation of some heterogeneous addition’ (37). Ultimately, Lavater identified the normal with the habitual/recognizable and the abnormal/insane with the accidental/ unpredictable; for him, immobility (the immobile body/face) was a sign of normality and mobility (the body/face in motion) a symptom of abnormality. For the most part, the first half of the nineteenth century was dominated by this materialist philosophy, which treated mental and brain states as

Photography and the Construction of Psychopathology at the Fin de Siècle


equivalent. In the often quoted 1853 study Köhlerglaube und Wissenschaft, Karl Vogt summarized this line of thought by arguing that ‘the brain secretes thought as the kidney does urine’ and that ‘thoughts are to the brain as the gall is to the liver or urine to the kidneys.’7 At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Philippe Pinel, the ‘father’ of modern psychiatry, published Traite médico-philosophique sur l’aliénation mentale, ou la manie (1801), in which he further elaborated Lavater’s theory. Pinel’s work as head of the Bicêtre and Salpêtrière mental hospitals was part of the humanitarian reforms of the French revolution. He declared himself an opponent of the popular view of insanity as a result of an organic lesion of the brain, considering it instead a ‘functional disturbance’ produced by psychological causes. Nevertheless, even as he appeared to deny any correspondence between the size and shape of a person’s cranium and their intellectual faculties ‒ ‘the heads of maniacs are not characterized by any peculiarity of conformation that are not to be met with in other heads taken indiscriminately’ (123) ‒ Pinel also listed numerous exceptions demonstrating a connection between ‘certain malconformations of the cranium … [and] a state of insanity, especially … idiotism or idiopathic fatuity’ (121). Ultimately, Pinel’s work lent further support to the theory that an imperfectly structured cranium was inevitably a symptom of the imperfect operation of the intellectual faculties. On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, the situation was not that different. Medical Inquiries and Observations upon the Diseases of the Mind, Benjamin Rush’s last medical book, published in 1812, was the first comprehensive American volume on mental illness. The book was based on Rush’s personal observations and experiences with patients at the Pennsylvania Hospital. Rush proposed to consider madness as a kind of cerebral fever: Madness has been placed exclusively in the mind. I object to this opinion 1, because the mind is incapable of any operations independently of impressions communicated to it through the medium of the body. … I object to it, 3, because there are no instances of primary affections of the mind, such as grief, love, anger, or despair, producing madness until they had induced some obvious changes in the body. … Having rejected the abdominal viscera, the nerves, and the mind, as the primary seats of madness, I shall now deliver an opinion, which I have long believed and taught in my lectures, and that is, that the cause of madness is seated primarily in the blood-vessels of the brain, and that it depends upon the same kind of morbid and irregular actions that constitute other arterial diseases. (16-17, 26)


Warped Minds

The predisposition to madness, though located primarily in the blood vessels, ‘extends to the nerves, and to that part of the brain which is the seat of the mind, both of which when preternaturally irritable, communicate more promptly, deranged action to the blood-vessels of the brain’ (27). Rush referred to this diffused morbid irritability as ‘the phrenetic predisposition’. And yet, although he emphasized the organic nature of insanity ‒ refusing to distinguish brain states from mental states ‒ Rush was also among the first to describe insanity in terms of inattentiveness, a certain predisposition to reverie or distractedness. In chapter XVI, titled ‘Of Reverie, or Absence of Mind’, he suggested that the ‘disease’ of absent-mindedness could be induced by two possible causes, ‘By the stimulus of ideas of absent subjects being so powerful as to destroy the perception of present objects; and, By a torpor of mind so great as not to feel the impressions of surrounding objects upon the senses’ (310). It is not surprising, then, that Rush often compared madness to dreaming. Dreaming is always induced by morbid or irregular action in the blood-vessels of the brain, and hence it is accompanied by the same erroneous train, or the same incoherence of thought, which takes place in delirium. This is so much the case that a dream may be considered as a transient paroxysm of delirium, and delirium as a permanent dream. It differs from madness in not being attended with muscular action. (301)

A couple of decades later, the Scottish physician and writer Robert Macnish would elaborate further on the analogy between the two phenomena in his study The Philosophy of Sleep (1830): There is a strong analogy between dreaming and insanity. … Dr. Rush has, with great shrewdness, remarked that a dream may be considered as a transient paroxysm of delirium and delirium as a permanent dream. … In health we rarely dream. In disease, especially of the brain, liver or stomach, dreams are both common and of a very distressing kind. (44, 47-48)

Macnish believed that ‘dreams are uniformly resuscitation or re-embodiment of thoughts which have formerly, in some shape or other, occupied the mind’ (48). Given the analogy between insanity and dreams, Macnish’s conclusion implied that multiple personality disorder ‒ which would become the signature condition of the fin-de-siècle, along with hysteria ‒ involved

Photography and the Construction of Psychopathology at the Fin de Siècle


the resuscitation of alternative past selves (just as dreams resuscitate past thoughts). In 1826 the Scottish physician Sir Alexander Morrison published The Insane State: Outlines of Lectures on Mental Diseases, in which he described insanity in terms of ‘delirium, or intellectual disorder’, ‘want of sleep’, ‘headache’, ‘altered physiognomy’, ‘delusion, incoherence, and unreasonable conduct’ (30, 33). In his later study, The Physiognomy of Mental Diseases (1843), which built on the work of Lavater and Pinel while anticipating Duchenne’s experiments a couple of decades later, Morrison linked sanity to the habitual contractions of facial muscles, which produce a recognizable expression: The appearance of the face is intimately connected and dependent upon the state of the mind; the repetition of the same ideas and emotions, and the consequent repetition of the same movements of the muscles of the eyes and of the face, give a peculiar expression, which, in the insane state, is a combination of weirdness, abstraction or vacancy, and of those ideas and emotions characterizing different varieties of mental disorder, as pride, anger, suspicion, mirth, love, fear, grief etc. (1)

Although he subscribed to the theory of madness as an organic disease of the brain, particularly to Gall’s doctrine that different mental disorders correspond to ‘different morbid states of particular convolutions of the brain’ (2), Morrison recognized that his contemporaries’ limited knowledge of the relationship between mind and body prevented them from using brain convolutions as reliable criteria for the classification of mental disorders. Thus physiognomy remained, for Morrison, the most reliable method for classifying the insane. In his 1845 study Mental Maladies: A Treatise on Insanity, J.E.D. Esquirol, following Rush, described insanity as a cerebral affection, ordinarily chronic, and without fever; characterized by disorders of sensibility, understanding, intelligence and will. … Among the insane, sensibility is exalted or perverted; and their sensations are no longer in relation with external or internal impressions. They seem to be the sport of the errors of their sense, and of their illusions. (21, 23)

While Esquirol saw ‘mental alienation’ as the result of a complex mixture of biological, moral and intellectual causes (including climate, age, tempera-


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ment, and lifestyle), he still upheld the notion that the physical symptoms of insanity are immediately (visually) recognizable: The features of the insane are convulsed, and their physiognomy wears the impress of pain. How different the changeful features of the maniac; the fixed and lengthened visage of the melancholic; the relaxed features and extinct expression of one in dementia, from those of the same individuals after restoration to health! (27)

Even as he drew a broad picture of the consequences of mental alienation ‒ ‘among the insane the vital properties are changed; the physical and moral sensibility; the faculty of perceiving, comparing and associating ideas; the memory and will; the moral affections, and the functions of organic life; all are more or less impaired’ (28) ‒ Esquirol ultimately maintained that the essential feature of insanity was the loss of attention and, therefore, of the ability to reason, insofar as reasoning is not a property that is natural to us: [W]e are not naturally reasoning beings; that is to say, our ideas are not conformed to objects, our comparisons exact, our reasonings just, but by a succession of effort of the attention, which supposes in its turn, an active state of the organ of thought; just as a muscular effort is necessary to produce motion, although the movement may no more exist in the muscle than thought in the brain. (28, my italics)

Interestingly, and contrary to Rush’s established opinion, while Esquirol defined insanity as a ‘cerebral affection’, he also cautioned his readers that thought does not ‘happen’ in the brain. Thus, even as he argued that sanity presupposes ‘an active organ of thought’ (implying that the brain is that organ), he remained reluctant to equate brain states with mental states, though also unable to explain why, if thought is not ‘in’ the brain, insanity should still be considered a ‘cerebral affection’. However confused he was about the relationship between the mind and the brain, or about the causes of insanity (is insanity the result of a damaged brain or of a disturbed thought process?), Esquirol did not stray too far from his predecessors’ belief that insanity can be ‘deduced’ from a person’s visual appearance. Esquirol published Mental Maladies: A Treatise on Insanity six years after William Henry Fox Talbot introduced photography to Britain, predicting that it would be helpful to the inductive methods of modern science; however, it would be a few decades before photography had become sufficiently advanced, in technological terms, to be used in scientific research.8 It was

Photography and the Construction of Psychopathology at the Fin de Siècle


Dr. Hugh W. Diamond who pioneered the use of photographic portraits in the study and treatment of the insane.9 In his 1856 address to the British Royal Society, On the Application of Photography to the Physiognomic and Mental Phenomena of Insanity, Diamond discussed the use of photography for the purpose of 1) record-keeping, 2) therapy, and 3) police evidence.10 Rather than trying to isolate specific signs of malfunction, Diamond was interested in capturing the overall appearance of the patients he photographed. He would show his patients their own photographs, usually in the form of a ‘before’ and an ‘after’ photograph (for example, the patient during a manic attack versus the patient convalescing), so that they could see the improvement they had made in the course of their treatment. The photographs made patients aware of their illness, sometimes provoking a degree of self-consciousness that allowed them to objectify their condition rather than being trapped by it. One patient imagined herself a queen, but upon seeing a photograph of herself ‘posing’ like a queen, she found the photograph ludicrous. Despite the fact that patients had to pose because the available technology depended on long exposure times, Diamond believed that even the use of professional models did not undermine the evidential value of photography. Diamond claimed his photographs of the insane to be free of the ‘painful caricaturing’ he encountered in paintings of the insane, such as those by Theodore Gericault, produced between 1821 and 1824 and commissioned by Dr. Etienne-Jean Georget to educate his students at the Ivry mental asylum about the typical features associated with monomania. Photography’s scientific claims to objectivity were, however, undermined by the scientific claims of another newly emerging science: statistics. The search for an average image of madness skewed photography’s transparency in an anachronistic way, as photographers tried to recreate a recognizable image of madness by reviving standard (heavily gendered) ‘poses’ of madness derived from works of Renaissance and Baroque art, as was the case with Diamond’s own photograph of a female patient in the guise of Ophelia, a reference to Rossetti’s painting The First Madness of Ophelia. At the time, Diamond’s photographs were not received as individual portraits but as examples of applied photography (though in his review of Diamond’s photographs in the French photography journal La Lumière, Ernest Lacan discussed them precisely as portraits of people rather than simply as scientific documents). And yet, by 1859, Diamond’s photographs were being criticized in The Photographic News not for failing to be objective or scientific but, on the contrary, for lacking justification as art and for being inappropriate for public exhibition. Diamond’s photographs


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inspired a series of essays by John Conolly on The Physiognomy of Insanity, published in 1858 in the Medical Times and Gazette.11 Conolly’s essays were illustrated with lithographs based on Diamond’s photographs, but there were some significant differences between the two, differences that undermined photography’s claim to an objective representation of mental illness. In her study Frames of Mind: An Investigation into the History of the Photography of Psychiatric Patients (1993), Kamilla K. Porter draws attention to one particular image, that of a woman suffering from melancholy: ‘The two pictures are similar and clearly of the same patient, but in Conolly’s illustration the subject looks downwards, whereas originally she was gazing directly into the camera’ (2.7). According to Porter, Conolly’s lithograph, which emphasized the demure downward gaze, fit the classical image of the passive and withdrawn melancholic: ‘Had this particular patient been photographed in a different pose, for example without resting her cheek on her hand, and if she had not been wearing a crucifix, the diagnosis of religious melancholy would no doubt have been far less obvious to the observer of the photograph’ (2.8). In other words, the diagnosis of melancholy depended on the reproduction of a classic image of melancholy, which in turn required that Diamond’s original photograph be modified so as to fit that image. Ultimately, the medical diagnosis was deduced from the patient’s pose rather than from the photographic medium’s supposedly inherent objectivity. This was not really a surprise given that by the 1850s, there was a growing awareness of the performative nature of insanity. In 1856 a Shakespearean actor recorded his disappointing visit to the Devon county asylum: ‘Where is the poetry of madness? I see none of it, no flashing eye, no foam on the mouth. Why, your people are as sober and as respectable as a vestry meeting.’12 The desire to understand how mental states become manifest in a person’s visual appearance was the motivating force behind the work of one of the most fascinating nineteenth-century researchers. G.B. Duchenne de Boulogne was a seminal figure in the move away from earlier physiognomies, since ‘instead of seeking a permanent physical imprint of fate or character he sought to understand the face in motion, describing facial expressions as a mobile muscular phenomenon.’13 In 1862 he published La Mécanisme de la physionomie humaine (The Mechanism of Human Facial Expression), presenting the results of his studies of ‘animated autonomy’ through the method of ‘localized electrization’,14 which he described as follows: Au moyen d’électrodes, il contracte séparément un ou plusieurs muscles de la face, composant à volonté les expressions les plus

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diverses. Mais la contraction est passagère: l’irritabilité [du muscle], après quelques seconds d’action continue, semble s’affaiblir sous l’influence d’un courant a intermittences très rapprochées. De là vient la nécessité de photographier rapidement les expressions produites par l’expérimentation électrophysiologique. (83)15

Although today, his classifications of ‘des muscles faciaux d’après leurs propriétés expressives (muscle de l’agression, de la douleur, de la joie, de la lascivité, du pleurer)’16 are considered absurd, Duchenne’s experiments were groundbreaking in demonstrating the existence of previously unknown facial muscles: with him, ‘la photographe glisse du rôle de document celui d’instrument de la recherche’ [the photograph’s role slides from that of a document to that of a research tool’] (84). Duchenne rejected Esquirol’s crude association of particular mental states with corresponding facial expressions, proposing instead to decompose general facial expressions ‒ for example, the elongated face of the melancholic, the changeful features of the maniac ‒ into the series of particular facial muscles producing them in the first place. What he achieved experimentally could be thought of on analogy with the shift from a conventional representational portrait to a pointillist portrait: In order to know and judge the influence on expression of the facial muscles, I have produced contractions of the latter with electrical currents. … First I put each of the muscles into isolated contraction, on one side and then on both sides of the face at the same time; then, progressing from the simple to the composite, I combined these isolated muscle contractions in all the variations possible, by making the different named muscles contract, two by two and three by three. (12)

Duchenne discovered that a single contraction of a facial muscle does not cause all other muscles to contract. His own account of the discovery recalls the familiar story about Georges Meliès accidentally stumbling upon stopmotion photography when his camera jammed during shooting: One day I was exciting the muscle of suffering, and at the moment when all the features appeared to be contracted expressing pain, the eyebrow and the forehead were suddenly accidentally masked (the veil of the person on whom I was experimenting falling over her eyes). Imagine my surprise in seeing that the lower part of the face was not displaying the least contraction! (13)


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On the basis of this accidental discovery, Duchenne proceeded to classify the isolated or combined contractions of the face as ‘expressive on their own’, ‘expressive only in a complementary way’, or ‘partly expressive’. Duchenne was essentially thinking of facial expression as analogous to language, a codifiable system ruled by basic laws ensuring universal understanding. The language of facial expression, he believed, is universal, immutable, invented by God: To be universal, the language must always be composed of the same signs or, in other words, depend on muscular contractions that are always the same. … [E]ach emotion is always represented on the face by the same muscular contractions, which neither fashions nor whims can change. (29-30)17

It is unclear whether he meant that one person’s facial expressions remain consistent throughout his life because they are made up of the same muscular contractions and convulsions, or that in all people the same facial expression (e.g. sadness) is produced through the contraction of the same facial muscles. The former explanation seems likelier if we consider the following statement: Facial expression is formed in repose in the individual face, which must be the image of our habitual sentiments, the faces of our dominant passions.... It is always the local afflictions of the face (contractions, partial paralyses, tics) that permanently alter the natural traits of individual facial expression. We must gain a knowledge of this cause of deformity. (31)

Thus, following Lavater, Duchenne proposed that a normal, natural facial expression is formed through habit, produced consistently by the same contractions of the same muscles. A natural/normal facial expression is perceived as a whole: all facial muscles work in harmony to produce a general, recognizable expression that can be compared to similar ones in the past. Conversely, and once again following Lavater, Duchenne regarded the face in motion as an example of deformity or abnormality. A deformed expression is not immediately recognizable because it is no longer the product of the habitual, harmonious contraction of the same series of muscles; instead, individual muscles contract in new, unpredictable (non-habituated) ways: muscles that are not supposed to contract do, or those that do contract are

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not supposed to. For Duchenne, then, deformity manifested itself as a failure of recognition as a result of excessive localization (i.e. the autonomous and random manner in which isolated muscles contract). The physical deformity of the face (and the internal deformity it pointed to) is analogous to the disruption of the codified, conventionalized relation between signifier and signified, resulting in a dispersal, dissemination, or randomization of meaning. In such abnormal cases, even if a person’s internal state of mind remains the same (e.g. melancholy), the system of facial muscles (signifiers) that used to produce that particular expression in the past is disrupted, with the result that the individual contractions of isolated facial muscles fail to produce one recognizable/coherent expression; that is, a single, recognizable signified (melancholy). All that remains is a series of floating, isolated signifiers referring only to themselves, rather than to the signified (melancholy) they are supposed to express. In short, Duchenne viewed mental deformity as a kind of illegibility: the deformed mind could not be ‘read’ through the body. Duchenne’s experiments challenged Esquirol’s belief in the correspondence between the visible (body) and the invisible (mind). Even as he held on to the idea that physical deformity (the contraction of the facial muscles in non-habituated ways) points to mental deformity, Duchenne put much greater emphasis on the illegibility (the ‘non-habituated’ as ‘illegible’) of the visible (physical deformity) which translated into an illegibility of the invisible (mental deformity). Departing from Esquirol’s holistic theory of correspondence, Duchenne proposed an analytic conception of the subject and of facial expression, underscoring the fragmentary/illegible nature of the body (hence his interest in the contraction of isolated facial muscles) and, by implication, the fragmentary/illegible nature of the mind. By distancing himself from earlier physiognomic theories and using photography to capture the ephemeral and the instantaneous, Duchenne was already beginning to understand the human face cinematically: ‘instead of seeking a permanent physical imprint of fate or character [Duchenne] sought to understand the face in motion, describing facial expressions as a mobile muscular phenomenon.’18 With Duchenne, ‘the human face became less a realm described in generalities [as had been the case with physiognomy which focused on classifying faces into types] than a zone of intense scrutiny on an individual basis.’19 Instead of providing evidence in support of physiognomic theories, photography exposed the aesthetic nature of supposedly ‘pure’ scientific questions, thereby drawing attention to madness and sanity as performative tropes.20 Significantly, Duchenne defended his method on the grounds of its applicability not only to anatomy and physiology, but also to art, in


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particular painting and sculpture. Indeed, he insisted on the validity of his scientific experiments by drawing a parallel between his experiment and a work of art (a painting). He believed his experiments with facial muscles served to unmask a similar illusion in art, the illusion that when certain colors or shades are placed next to each other, they appear differently than when we see them isolated. And he famously criticized Laocoön, whose forehead he deemed anatomically incorrect, provoking critics to accuse him of reducing art to anatomical realism (Duchenne 239). Duchenne justified his use of photography in scientific experiments on account of its technological superiority to art: ‘Skillful artists have tried in vain to represent the faces of my subjects; for the contractions provoked by the electrical current are of too short a duration for an exact reproduction of the expressive lines that develop on the face to be drawn or painted. Only photography, as truthful as a mirror, could attain such desirable perfection’ (36). However, he admitted that the success of his scientific experiments depended on achieving a certain artistic effect: ‘Art does not rely only on technical skills. For my research, it was necessary to know how to put each expressive line into relief by a skillful play of light’ (39, my italics). He redeemed the technical imperfections of the apparatus he was working with ‒ causing parts of some of his photographs to be better focused than others ‒ by arguing that such imperfections produced an appropriate (i.e., desirable) aesthetic effect, so that ‘the distribution of light is quite in harmony with the emotions that the expressive lines represent’ (40). For example, the somber passions (aggression, pain, suffering) were represented, appropriately, in chiaroscuro. The Mechanism of Human Facial Expression contains a list of illustrations followed by two sections, a scientific and an aesthetic one. In the scientific section Duchenne speaks of his dedication to the truthful representation of his subjects’ expressive lines. In the aesthetic section, however, he underscores the importance of having an overall aesthetically pleasing picture of his subjects: ‘the gesture and the pose together contribute to the expression; the trunk and the limbs must be photographed with as much care as the face so as to form an harmonious whole’ (103). In the notes on the individual plates, he describes each plate as a ‘scene’, narrating it as if it were a mini-narrative, and as he tries to explain the particular emotion represented there he often makes use of terms such as ‘depict’ and ‘portray’, which one would expect to find in an art review rather than in an account of a scientific experiment. Duchenne’s interest in the aesthetic appeal of his scientific experiments prompted him to take into consideration his readers’ complaints that his original subjects were too ugly and to repeat his experiments with more attractive subjects.

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The merging of aesthetic with scientific concerns also informed another pioneering work of the period, Charles Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872), in which Darwin examined ‘abnormal’ faces, including those of infants, the insane, and different races. Darwin included both photographs and engravings; however, most of the engravings were used to illustrate the sections dealing with expression in animals and insane people. Although cost must have certainly been a factor in Darwin’s choice (engravings were cheaper than photographs), it is likely that the engravings were used to add dramatic emphasis and thus to set them apart from the photographs of normal expressions.21 Darwin reproduced some of Duchenne’s photographs, but he tried to conceal the work of production behind his predecessor’s supposedly factual records by editing the images so as to remove Duchenne’s hands and the disturbing apparatus he used to shock his subjects. Among the other photographs published in the book were those Darwin procured through his correspondence, in 1869, with the psychiatrist James Browne, Medical Director of the West Riding Lunatic Asylum in Yorkshire between 1866 and 1876. Browne was interested in how mental properties could be mapped onto the physical structure of the brain, something he studied through experiments and autopsies of human patients and through neurological research based on animal experiments. His photographs, which provided the experimental base for Henri Maudsley’s somatic theories of mind, appealed to Darwin because they seemed to illustrate Maudsley’s idea of insanity as a throwback to humanity’s bestial past.22 At some point, however, Darwin decided that Browne’s photographs were ‘not expressive enough’ and approached the London-based commercial photographer, Oscar Rejlander. Given Darwin’s desire to produce an objective study of expression, his decision to collaborate with Rejlander was odd at best, since Rejlander was mostly known for advocating photography as an art form rather than a research instrument. Indeed, Rejlander posed for some of the illustrations himself, artificially inducing, like Duchenne had done before him, particular facial expressions. His photographs were ultimately closer to ‘simulation’ than to ‘evidence’. Thus, even though Darwin’s book contributed to the establishment of photography’s use in scientific research, it also blurred the line between evidence (science) and illustration (art). The period between 1810 and 1840 was the hey-day of British phrenology and physiognomy; by the 1870s and 1890s, the scientific basis of such theories was beginning to be seriously challenged. Based on her examination of the casebooks of photographs by Hering at Bethlem (c. 1850), by Diamond at the Surrey County Asylum (c. 1856) and by Dr. Clarke at Wakefield (c. 1869),


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Kamilla Porter concludes that the influence of physiognomic interpretations of photographs in the transitional period ‒ the 1850s-1860s ‒ might have been exaggerated. More often than not, photographs were used simply for identification and record-keeping, especially at large county asylums such as Hanwell and Conley Hatch, as distinguished from private institutions such as Holloway, where photographing the inmates must have been a more sensitive issue, most likely requiring the consent of the patients’ families. This was especially the case once new technological improvements allowed photographs to be taken more quickly, easily, and more efficiently. Another major reason for including photographs in late nineteenth-century medical books was also to give the book an up to date image since they demonstrated that a new piece of technology had been used to illustrate the book. Indeed, Emil Kraepelin introduced photographs into the fifth edition of his textbook in 1896, ‘only because of the publisher’s demands for a product that could compete with the other illustrated manuals and handbooks.’ (Frames of Mind 2.15)

By 1870 the interest in using photography to study the facial expressions of the insane had diminished. Porter concludes her study by suggesting that the very development of photography might have contributed to the decline of physiognomic interpretations of insanity: ‘[A]n intriguing aspect about the photography of psychiatric patients is that it occurred as the scientific establishment was rejecting physiognomical theories. … Did the camera simply arrive too late for the exponents of physiognomy or did photography itself contribute to physiognomy’s decline?’ (Ibid., Conclusion 2-3). By the 1880s, psychology, psychiatry and neurology had emerged as distinct, if closely related, fields of knowledge. The increasingly popular method of experimental psychology was reflected in the laboratory settings of late-Victorian gothic fiction (Frankenstein, The Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Island of Doctor Moreau), which was obsessed with exploring the boundaries of the dynamic self. However, the scientific credentials of experimental psychology came increasingly to depend on establishing a physiological basis for madness. Indeed, the development of psychological medicine was connected with the advance of neurology: This rapidly developing discipline incorporated on the one hand the medical study of dysfunctions of the nervous system (such as epilepsy and paralysis) alongside vaguer conditions such as hysteria and

Photography and the Construction of Psychopathology at the Fin de Siècle


neurasthenia; on the other hand (following developments in France and Germany) the laboratory-based study, relying heavily on animal experiments, of the structure and functions of the brain. (Taylor 19)

For example, many of the photographs in the Colney Hatch album, held at the Welcome library, appear to have been taken in order to illustrate clinical features, such as neurological disorders or physical diseases like smallpox.23 At the Station Physiologique in France, at the same time that Marey was perfecting microchronophotography in his study of simple repetitive movements (a naked man walking, a girl jumping, a hand squeezing into a fist and then releasing), his physiological studies using chronophotographic techniques focused on the movement of soldiers, whose synchronic, repetitive and automated nature presumably served as an illustration of normal movement. Similarly, while Muybridge was recording hands beating time, the gallop of horses, or the aesthetically pleasing model movements of athletes (intended, it would seem, as pedagogical tools in the training of gymnasts), he was also working for the Medical Faculty, documenting cases of normal and pathological movement. Between 1898 and 1899 Gheorghe Marinescu, a Romanian psychiatrist, shot a number of short films, Studies on Human Pathological Locomotion, at the Pontilimon hospital in Bucharest, in which he analyzed movement disorders produced by progressive ataxia.24 The ‘ghosting’ of nineteenth century photographs ‒ the appearance of incomplete, blurred images ‒ along with photography’s basic technical property, the latent image, account for the fact that the discourse of scientific objectivity to which the new medium seemed to belong was from the very beginning enmeshed with another, contradictory discourse of the uncanny, the magical, and the latent. The notion of photography as nature’s ‘spontaneous reproduction’, which ‘translated’ the medium’s inherent automatism into objectivity, was from the start undermined by the opposite reading of the very same characteristic of the medium ‒ its automatism ‒ as an instance of natural magic. Indeed, in slightly more than a decade after the invention of photography, it became associated with the idea of the double and the uncanny. Early photography was more often than not discussed as a ‘discovery’ ‒ ‘a discovery of nature’s capacity to register its own image’ ‒ rather than as an ‘invention’. Photographs were said to be ‘“obtained” or “taken”, like natural specimens found in the wild.’25 Upon its invention, photography modeled itself on chemistry. Up until the diffusion of the gelatino-bromure process, Albert Londe writes in his study La Photographie instantanée: Theorie et Pratique, most photographic


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work consisted in the perfection of various chemical processes and their skillful manipulation: Comme la chimiste, le photographe de l’époque est confronté à une irritante irrégularité des phénomènes dus à l’imprécision des machines, à la variabilité des préparations sensible ou à la relativité des mesures. Les succès de la chimie donnent l’exemple d’approches méthodiques appliquées à des objets instables, et montrent qui’il est possible de tracer des lois dans le désordre, de l’empiricisme. (La Photographie instantanée 77-78)26

Paradoxically, it was precisely photography’s newly acquired legitimation as a guarantor of reality that eventually authorized its claim to being an art: En s’éloignant de l’oppressante tutelle des beaux arts, désormais défini comme garant de vérité et guide du regard, l’enregistrement mécanique y gagnera une dignité neuve. C’est paradoxalement cette légitimité qui autorisera, des la fin du siècle, un nouvel établissement sur le site de l’art à travers la démarche pictorialisme. (65)27

Although in the history of photography Albert Londe is mostly known for his medical photographs, his work went beyond the scientif ic uses of photography; as Andre Gunthert puts it in his introduction to Albert Londe, Londe was ‘Un touriste de la science qui use de ses moyens au bénéfice de la photographie. Dans l’histoire française du médium, il est celui qui transpose les acquis expérimentaux de la chronophotographie dans le vocabulaire de la pratique amateur.’28 Indeed, most of the surviving photos taken with Londe’s camera and included in this book are not medical. Charcot hired Londe because he was a specialist in the new gelatin-bromure process. Londe created a special medical photography lab, which operated with its own protocol and with special equipment that was used in a wide range of contexts, rather than for scientific purposes only: Au contraire des installations de Muybridge ou de Marey, qui impose une scénographie spécifique de prise de vue, au contraire des premières images de la chronophotographie, simples silhouettes sans relief dessinées sur un fond blanc ou noir, l’appareil de Londe permet un usage polyvalent, et produit des clichés qui sont des véritables photographies, avec leur modèle et leur profondeur de champ: il s’agit

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de premier dispositif d’enregistrement séquentiel réalisé sur le modelé d’un appareil photographique quelconque. (Gunthert 1)29

Numerous doctors and medical students came to Londe’s lab to consult his photographs; just as often, they invited him back to their own hospitals to photograph their most remarkable cases. In the preface to La Photographie Instantanée Londe provides a concise definition of the nature and purpose of instantaneous photography: ‘obtenir en un laps de temps très court, un cliché aussi parfait que possible d’un objet en mouvement’ [to obtain, in a very short time, the best possible image of a moving object’ (Preface vi). Instantaneous photography, he argues, can be used in two ways: it can be posed and well-composed, like a painting, but it can also be used to shoot random objects and capture fleeting moments. He openly privileges the latter use of the camera ‒ capturing involuntary expression and movements ‒ because it produces images possessing a certain truth and vividness that is inevitably sacrificed when the subject becomes aware of the camera and assumes a pose, that is, remains still: ‘Il est évident, en effet, que si nous voulons saisir des attitudes, des mouvements qui soient pris sur le vif, il ne faudra pas éveiller l’attention de nos modelés involontaires qui ne manqueraient pas de se croire obligés de poser’ (La Photographie Instantanée 142).30 However, by the time he published La Photographie dans les arts, les sciences et l’industrie ‒ only two years later ‒ Londe had already changed sides, now crediting the posed, still portrait with capturing the subject’s essence and dismissing the instantaneous photograph as revealing only what is random and non-essential about the subject. The book opens with Londe’s response to those who criticize photography for being inexact and providing misinformation: ‘Voyez, nous dira-t-on, ce portrait ou les parties les plus avancées du visage, ou les bras, les mains prennent une importance choquante … examinez ces perspectives faussées’ (La Photographie dans les arts 8).31 Such deformations, he points out, are not inherent in the apparatus but are actually the fault of the amateurs using it. He defends photography’s scientific claim to objectivity by reminding his readers that photography has been used for the reproduction of topographic, geographic, military and astronomy documents, all of which demand rigorous precision. Londe singles out photography’s inherent objectivity as one of its most essential characteristics. Its other essential characteristics are, first, its capacity to capture and analyze animate (that is, moving) objects, and, second, its reproducibility.32 The photograph’s superiority to the human eye lies not only in its capacity to offer us an image of the object that is more scientifically objective than that perceived by the naked human eye, but also in its almost


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magical power to retain the traces of the object photographed: ‘M. Janssen, l’illustre astronome, a dit de la plaque photographique qu’elle était la “rétine du savant,” mais reine bien supérieure a l’oeil humain; car, d’une part, elle garde la trace du phénomène qu’elle a perçu et, de l’autre, dans certains cas, elle voit plus que celui-ci’ (quoted in Londe, La Photographie dans les arts 8).33 Londe devotes the rest of the book to exploring photography’s duality as an instrument of science and an art form. As the novelty of photography wore off and it began to transform into an art, its inherent objectivity and precision turned into obstacles: Cette précision excessive, aveugle même, précieuse dans certains cas, sera ici plutôt un obstacle. Il faudra donc que l’opérateur compose son sujet de manière a attiré l’attention sur l’objet principal, qu’il l’éclaire de manière a mettre en lumière tel ou tel point, qu’il lui donne une attitude naturelle, qu’il fasse ressortir la physionomie qui lui est habituelle, en un mot qu’il exécute ce travail préparatoire tout comme le ferait un artiste; mais comme, d’autre part, il se sert d’un instrument particulier qui, à certains points de vue, peut modifier les effets, qui’il prévoit tout qu’il calcule tout. (12)34

Photography can record whatever the human eye does not have the time to see, but it also freezes time and thus has the (questionable) power ‘de traduire sous une forme excessivement simple les mouvements les plus compliqués’ [‘to give the most complex movements an excessively simple appearance’] (44). On one hand, then, unlike the artist, the photographer confronts his subject, whether this is a landscape or a portrait, with the belief that there is nothing to change in the subject: the photographer tries to capture the subject immediately, rather than trying to improve it. On the other hand, however, to the extent that the photographer chooses how to light the subject and how to compose the shot, he is also an artist. This conflict between the artistic and scientific aspect of photography is dramatized in the photographic portrait, which, Londe advises photographers, should always attempt to capture the subject in their ‘corresponding environment’; that is, it should capture the subject as a personification of his or her particular social role: ‘Un bucheron dans le bois, un pécheur sur le bord de la rivière ne seront pas déplacés. Évitez le monsieur en chapeau haute-forme et en redingote qui vient souvent faire tache dans une épreuve d’ailleurs fort réussie’ (14).35 This tendency to view the posed photograph, in which the subject remains still, as revealing something essential about its subject, in contrast

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to the instantaneous photograph, which captures only the incidental and inessential, was widespread at the time. E. Frippet dedicated his study La Pratique de la Photographie Instantanée par les appareils à main to Londe, his advisor and teacher. For Frippet, as well, one can recognize a good photographer by how artistically considered their photographs are: instantaneous photographs should not be mere ‘snapshots’ capturing a fleeting instant, but should capture ‘the essence of the real’ and strive to be as exact as possible ‘pour donner à chaque objet sa valeur réelle’ [to capture the real value of every object] (48). Starting from the assumption that instantaneous photography has to be as exact as possible in its simulation of a natural attitude, in his book Frippet includes a table listing different lighting conditions and the ‘temps de pose’ corresponding to each. The photographer shooting a moving object should always focus on the most important aspect of the object, which, in the case of portrait photography, is the beard or the hair: ‘Dans un paysage mouvemente on devra faire la mise au point sur le sujet auquel on veut donner le plus d’importance. … Dans le portrait, elle se fera sur la barbe ou sur les cheveux’ (48).36 Although the instantaneous portrait is more vivid and realistic than the posed portrait, the expression captured by the instantaneous portrait is only a fleeting one, revealing nothing essential about the sitter. In the case of portraits, then, posed photography remains a better option than instantaneous photography, the assumption being that it is the still face ‒ rather than the face in motion ‒ that captures what is most essential about a person:37 Le portrait fait avec un appareil instantané, s’il a été pris dans des circonstances favorables, sera beaucoup plus intéressant que celui fait par le photographe professionnel, grâce à une vivacité d’esprit que l’autre ne saurait posséder. Mais ce portrait instantané n’est réalisable que par hasard, la physionomie des personnes changeant avec une trop grande rapidité pour que l’appareil, aussi rapide soit-il, luise le saisir au moment de ça meilleur expression. L’instantané pour le portrait, exigeant une lumière assez grande, lui donne de la dureté en accentuant énormément les traits et le visage, et a beaucoup trop d’uniformité. Il faudra donc, pour avoir d’excellents résultats, recourir à la pose, et avoir soin de placer son modelé dans les meilleures conditions possible au point de vue de la lumière, tout en lui donnant une attitude naturelle. (72)38

To go back to La Photographie dans les arts, les sciences et l’industrie, it is significant that Londe discusses the medical uses of photography in


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between his analyses of its legal and military applications, stressing its usefulness in capturing criminals (the availability of photographs at the police prefecture greatly facilitated police investigations, including the association of certain mental illnesses with certain types of crime): Dans un autre ordre d’idées, le chirurgien, le médecin constatent au moyen de la Photographie l’étendue des lésions, leur aspect; ils en notent les modifications et complètent ainsi de la manière la plus claire leurs observations. Il est même certaines affections qui donnent au malade une physionomie toute spéciale, qui ne frappe pas l’observateur dans un cas isolé, mais qui devient typique si on la retrouve chez d’autres personnes atteintes de la même maladie. La comparaison de photographies prises quelquefois à des années de distance permettra, comme l’a fait M. le Professeur Charcot à la Salpêtrière, de décrire le faces propre a telle ou telle affections de système nerveux. Ce résultat est important; car le type, une fois défini, reste grave dans la mémoire et il peut, dans certains cas, être précieux pour le diagnostic. (23-24, my italics)39

The reproducibility of photography allows scholars and doctors to study their subjects repeatedly rather than relying on direct observation of a single patient. Comparing photographs of different patients taken across time and at different mental hospitals reveals recurring patterns, on the basis of which the scientific establishment can make generalizations and develop a taxonomy of illnesses. What is of particular interest in this discussion of the medico-legal uses of photography is an almost imperceptible shift in the meaning of objectivity. Whereas in earlier applications of photography, and in earlier writings on photography, photography’s objectivity is attributed to its particular relationship to reality ‒ its capacity to produce a realistic image of reality that, in a certain sense, retained an imprint of that reality ‒ in later applications of photography, and in later writings on photography, objectivity begins to be derived from photography’s other characteristic, its reproducibility, rather than from its relation to reality. In Londe’s discussion of the medico-legal uses of photography objectivity becomes a matter of statistics: the objectivity of photographs of the insane and of photographs of criminals derives from the availability of multiple reproductions of photographs, which can be analyzed comparatively in order to classify criminals and illnesses into clearly recognizable types that can then be reproduced by the same logic; the reproducibility of photographs guarantees the reproducibility of types of people.

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Indeed, in the latter part of the nineteenth century, one of the most common methods for classifying different types of insanity was based on the optical superimposition of portraits of the insane. According to the method’s numerous proponents, the composite portrait enabled one to obtain with mechanical precision a generalized picture that represents no man in particular, but portrays an imaginary figure possessing the average features of any given group of men (epileptics, hysterics, and so on). The Belgian mathematician, statistician and sociologist Adolphe Quetelet maintained that it is mathematically true that deviations from the average man are indistinguishable from error. The composite portrait, he believed, was a portrait of ‘the average man’, a fictional being in regard to which all things happen in accordance with average results obtained for society. Here, the new meaning of photography’s objectivity, derived from its reproducibility, is clearly spelled out: the objectivity of photography no longer lies in its immediate relation to reality but in its reproductive capacity, essentially a relation to itself rather than to the outside world, which results in the creation of a fictional representation. In short, the anxious debate around the decline of realism in photography in our post-photographic age is not a reflection of recent technical developments in photography that have allegedly broken its relation to reality, but rather a manifestation of the self-reflexive nature of photography as a reproductive medium. Londe himself suggested as much when he observed, in La Photographie Moderne, that photography is particularly well-suited to the study of a range of psycho-somatic disturbances, on account of a certain correspondence between the object of study (the illness, which proceeds through different stages) and the very mechanism of photography (its capacity to divide and analyze movement into its constituent parts/instants): Dans sa clinique des maladies du système nerveux, M. le professeur Charcot a toute une série de maladies atteintes de paralysie, d’hystérie, d’épilepsie, de Corée, etc., qui semblent mettre au défi la Photographie; il s’agit, en effet, d’étudier des tremblements, des attaques, de les analyser et de les décomposer. D’ou la nécessité d’un appareil spécial qui permet de prendre un certain nombre d’épreuves a des intervalles quelconques, aussi rapproches ou aussi éloigner qu’on le voudra les uns des autres. Prenons comme type l’attaque hystéro-épileptique, attaque qui se subdivise en périodes parfaitement distinctes, composées chacune de mouvements rythmés et caractéristiques. Le medicin a intérêt à decomposer: 1. l’attaque en periodes caracterisees par le mouvement; 2. le mouvement lui-même. (La Photographie Moderne 1)40


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In the course of explaining why he could not use the fusil photographique of his excellent colleague Marey, Londe acknowledges the extent to which the recording of madness and mental illness depends on the precise match between the mechanical progress of the apparatus and the ‘natural’ progress of the hysterical or epileptic attack: ‘La durée de l’attaque n’a absolument rien de régulier, et [il] faut pouvoir régler la marche de l’appareil sur celle de l’attaque. De plus l’appareil doit obéir au médecin, de façon que celui-ci puisse agir au moment précis qu’il croira utile de choisir’ (1). 41 What makes photography such an invaluable scientific instrument is the photographer’s control over the instrument with which he records uncontrollable movements. However, as the last part of the quote suggests, controlling the recording apparatus does not guarantee an objective record of the illness: insofar as the photographer has the power to choose when to turn on the camera, he ends up with a selective record of the alleged progression of the hysterical or epileptic attack. In short, he can ‘narrativize’ or ‘dramatize’ the attack he is recording (partly because, as most alienists at the time believed, there was something inherently cinematic in hysteric attacks) in order to analyze it better and divide it into concrete stages (i.e. interpret it) that are otherwise imperceptible to the human eye. There is something pathological in the very capacity of photography to freeze time, a kind of technological catalepsy matching the ‘natural’ catalepsy of which it provides a record: ‘Catalepsy retains by way of the body what photography retains by way of the camera: it freeze-frames and retains the body in isolated position that can be viewed and theorized outside a sequence of motion.’42 Londe’s photographs were published in the Nouvelle Iconographie de la Salpêtrière, whose publication resumed in 1888 (after a short hiatus) under the direction of Charcot, Paul Richer, Giles de la Tourette, and Londe himself (publication would come to an end in 1918). In the 1888 edition of the Nouvelle Iconographie, Londe explained the usefulness of photography in the study of the insane as follows: Lorsqu’un malade présente objectivement quelque intérêt ‒ ce qui arrive souvent: atrophies, contractures diverses, attitudes spéciales, déformations, etc. ‒ il est immédiatement dessiné ou photographié et l’on peut même dire qu’avec l’aide de la photographie instantanée on arrive à fixer, à décomposer sur le papier des mouvements anormaux, par exemple, qu’il eût été impossible d’analyser avec toute la précision désirable a l’aide du simple examen clinique. Ces clichés forment aujourd’hui, à la Salpêtrière, une collection de la grande importance. En outré, il est de par la pathologie nerveuse un certain nombre de cas

Photography and the Construction of Psychopathology at the Fin de Siècle


encore mal classés dont la description difficile se trouverait singulièrement éclairée par la représentation objective. La photographie d’un paralyse agitant ou d’une hystérique en attaques n’en dit-elle pas plus long a l’esprit qu’une description si analytique qu’elle soit? (no pagination). 43

Despite the obvious theatricality of Charcot’s and his own photographs of the insane, Londe never stopped insisting on photography’s inherent neutrality: Il s’agit, en effet, de garder la trace durable de toutes les manifestations pathologiques, quelles qu’elles soient, qui peuvent modifier la forme extérieure du malade et lui imprimer un caractère particulier, une attitude, un faciès spécial. Ces documents impartiaux et rapidement recueillis donnent aux observations médicales une valeur considérable en ce sens qu’ils mettent sous les yeux de tous l’image fidèle du sujet étudié. L’étude du nu pathologique trouvera donc dans la Photographie un auxiliaire des plus précieux; mais pour en tirer tout le parti voulu, il faudrait, comme l’a si bien remarqué M. le professeur Charcot, connaître également bien le nu normal. (La photographie médicale 64)44

Photography’s claims to scientific status were based on its promise to capture the instant. 45 No one expected, however, that instantaneous photography would reveal something immobile, dead, and strangely distorted at the very heart of life: Depuis le milieu du siècle, la photographie promettait l’instantané. Tout semblait y conduire. Mais personne ne s’attendait a ce qu’un gain de rapidité, au lien de traduire plus fidèlement le mouvement, engendre un étrange suspens visuel. Chutes de sang, corps maladroits, contorsions incongrues, positions cocasses: devant ces clichés d’autant plus immobiles qu’ils auraient dû être plus animés, la révélation de l’involontaire…cause an choc imprévu. (Photographie Moderne 166)46

Paradoxically, instead of assuaging fears of death, photography exposed the inhuman, the mechanical, and the inanimate inherent in the human, thereby exacerbating the fear of death, of absolute immobility. The new medium not only afforded views that had been forbidden to the naked eye, but transformed the body into a mannequin or a puppet deprived of an inner spirit. The photographed body appeared soulless; the free movements once


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attributed to the body were now exposed as an illusion concealing a series of maladroit, contorted postures: ‘L’émotion provoquée par l’instantané ne tient pas seulement à l’isolement d’un phenomenon qu’on n’avait jamais perçu. Il dépend fondamentalement de la représentation d’un corps, sous un mode aberrant qui le transforme en objet: une sorte d’inverse absolu de l’idéal du portrait’ (ibid. 169). 47 In short, instant photography exposed the essentially aleatory, nonessential nature of every individual act and gesture by decontextualizing them and suspending them outside time, robbing them of the potential to register as part of a chain of signification: L’enregistrement séquentiel de Muybridge traduit un postulat rigoureusement inverse. Arrâtant le mouvemente à un instant quelconque, l’instantané détache un moment nonsignificatif de la succession: un événement sans avènement’ selon la belle formule de Thierry du Duve … la photographie instantanée fait de la pose au mauvais moment. (Ibid. 174)48

With the invention of instant photography, Lessing’s ‘pregnant moment’ was replaced by the ‘aborted’ or ‘empty’ moment. Earlier I suggested that the introduction of an ‘external’ mirror (the camera) had the effect of undermining the belief in an ‘internal’ mirror (the body as an image of the mind). I have to modify my claim slightly. By arresting movement, instantaneous photography revealed something dead, mechanical, automatic or unconscious at the very core of life (life=movement), thereby undermining the notion of a singular, absolutely self-present self that expresses or manifests itself fully and purposefully through its movements. Paradoxically, the discovery that the mind and the body are not absolutely co-expressible depended on reaffirming the same assumption that was being challenged in the first place: it was precisely because on some level the body continued to be thought of as an ‘image’ (or mirror) of the mind that it was now possible to conclude ‒ based on the photographic evidence of the body’s automatism (the mechanical, the dead, or the automatic exposed through the arresting of supposedly purposeful, fully conscious movements) ‒ that the mind is not absolutely self-present either, but rather inherently dual or even multiple. On the other hand, instantaneous photography’s ability to arrest movement further undermined the previously assumed mirror relationship between mind and body: by arresting movement, instantaneous photography exposed every movement as made up of multiple meaningless, random, empty moments devoid of any significance outside of a sequence of uninterrupted move-

Photography and the Construction of Psychopathology at the Fin de Siècle


ment. These autonomous instants failed to signify and were sometimes even ‘guilty’ of mis-signification. Whereas an uninterrupted movement could convey a body’s exhaustion, for instance, the arresting of the body’s uninterrupted movement produced a series of de-contextualized instants whose ‘meaning’ (the state of exhaustion they were supposed to express) could be easily misread as conveying, in fact, the opposite impression of energy: an individual instant could create the impression of an energetic body whose exhaustion became evident only when the whole movement unfolded uninterrupted. Motion studies by Eadweard J. Muybridge, Étienne-Jules Marey, and Albert Londe demonstrated that a movement could be broken down into multiple, increasingly smaller constitutive elements; when viewed in its entirety, the movement appeared to be the repetition of this series of elements/fragments. That a movement could thus be broken down and analyzed suggested not only that it is internally constituted by repetition but, more importantly, that the movement itself is inherently repeatable/ analyzable (e.g. comparable to other similar or dissimilar movements, and thus demanding a taxonomy of movements). By underscoring the habitual nature of simple daily movements (such as walking, running, bending), the camera also pointed to their inherently obsessive or neurotic nature (insofar as obsession/neurosis is defined in terms of repetition). At the same time, instantaneous photography provided shocking views of movement suspended in distorted, unnatural postures, demonstrating that what one had previously considered ‘normal’ movements might conceal deep-seated disturbing pathologies. Insofar as instantaneous photography suggested the possibility of all movements being inherently neurotic ‒ analyzable into a series of repetitions ‒ the line dividing normal from abnormal movements came to be increasingly blurred. If all movements were constituted by repetition, as the camera had demonstrated, it was no longer possible to maintain that the unconscious, repetitive, automated movements of the mentally ill/the insane were symptoms of some underlying mental disturbance. The writings of Albert Londe suggest that the decline of physiognomic theories might have to do with a growing awareness of the camera’s ability to reproduce the object it is supposed to record. Londe emphasized the reproduction capacity of photography, which made possible a taxonomy of madness since different types of madness could be recognized only through comparisons across patients and across time. He derived the persistence or recurrence of the visual signs in which madness manifested itself ‒ which he read as essential or inherent precisely because of their recurrence ‒ from


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the reproducibility of reproductions (photographs). 49 The very nature of the apparatus ‒ its ‘double identity’ insofar as it offered a means of mechanical reproduction but also made possible the application of exactly the same process of reproduction to the result obtained through reproduction, that is, to the photographs themselves ‒ reproduced the object of which it claimed to provide a record. The possibility of making multiple records of the insane over a period of time in order to study the effect of various treatments and to perform other kinds of comparative analysis rendered the idea of an essentially unified and static self obsolete.50 Indeed, that idea had already been put into question by the ‘boom’ in hysteria cases at the end of the nineteenth century. Hysteric patients could reproduce poses that were suggested to them under hypnosis as if there was a second self ‘in’ them. The sensation [erased from consciousness] is registered in the nervous centers of the patient, and it is this physiological registering that allows him to reproduce the movement without being conscious of it. Binet made the capital discovery that this doubling of the personality isn’t successive but simultaneous. Up until 1887 the second personality had been seen equated with a somnambulistic state, which was, in turn, believed to alternate with a normal waking state. Binet was the first to suggest that this ‘second personality’ coexists with the conscious personality.51

By the end of the century this second personality, associated with automatism, was recognized as the unconscious,52 a concept that would undergo numerous redefinitions in the course of destabilizing traditional definitions of ‘sanity’ and ‘insanity’. With increasing attention being devoted to spontaneous somnambulism, lethargy, catalepsy, multiple personality and hysteria, a new, dynamic model of the human mind began to evolve based on the duality of conscious and unconscious psychism.53 Charcot’s name features prominently in histories of dynamic psychiatry, especially in relation to the increasing theatricalization of the cogito brought about by the emerging new media of photography and f ilm.54 Fin-de-siècle writers were influenced by Charcot’s experiments and lessons at the Salpêtrière, where he ‘hypnotically induced localized hysterical symptoms that were then literally “acted out” by patients before an audience … Charcot’s pedagogical technique, employing posters, photographs, and illuminated projections, was based on a kind of theatricalization of symptoms’.55 The best known representation of a fin de siècle hysteric is Andre Brouillet’s Une leçon clinique a la Salpêtrière, which shows Charcot

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lecturing in front of medical students and a hysterical female patient fainting dramatically. One of Charcot’s principal contributions to the development of dynamic psychiatry was the distinction he drew between ‘dynamic’ and ‘organic’ paralyses, the latter resulting from a lesion of the nervous system, the former provoked by auto-suggestion or hypnosis and, therefore, reversible. Likewise, Charcot distinguished ‘dynamic’ from ‘organic’ amnesia: patients diagnosed with organic amnesia suffered an irreversible loss of memories, while those with dynamic amnesia were capable of recovering their lost memories. Charcot’s experiments made it possible to think of dynamic amnesia and dynamic paralysis ‒ both of which could be induced by hypnosis or auto-suggestion ‒ as simulations. His studies depended on the analogous dynamics of popular melodrama. At the Bal des Folles, very popular with the public, Charcot induced, through hypnosis, localized hysterical symptoms, which the patients then ‘acted out’ in front of an audience.56 Conversely, after the introduction of film, hysterical patients would often imitate cabaret performers and early film comedy actors, thus drawing attention to what Rae Beth Gordon calls ‘the performative nature of corporeal pathologies’:57 Is there a relationship between ways that movement was staged in early cinema and corporeal pathologies ‒ contractures, tics, catalepsy, and convulsive movement ‒ related to hysteria and epilepsy? … It seems plausible that café-concert performers provided models for potential hysterics who couldn’t resist imitating the tics, grimaces, and convulsive movements that later came to characterize the medical journal Nouvelle Iconographie Photographique de la Salpêtrière.58

In Clinical Lectures on the Diseases of the Nervous System (1877-89), Charcot describes his experiments with hysteric-epileptic patients. Since he was unable to provide ocular proof of the cure of motor paralysis in a hysterical patient, it occurred to him that perhaps by acting on the mind of the patient, by means of suggestion, even in the waking state … we might reproduce the paralysis, for a time at least. … The experiment succeeded marvelously, for at the end of a few minutes’ discussion the monoplegia returned. I was not anxious on his account … for I know from long experience, that what one has done, one can undo. (140)


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The cure became real only when ocular proof of the cure had been provided. Ocular proof, however, demanded suggesting to the patient that he had, in fact, not been cured, which in turn implied that the disease whose cure Charcot was trying to demonstrate might not have been real after all, that it had been imagined or simulated through the power of suggestion. Kamilla Porter underscores the differences between Charcot’s use of photography and its use by his predecessors: Charcot’s approach to hysteria emphasized the external and visual rather than the unseen and purely psychological. … Thus Charcot’s use of photography differed from that of Diamond and Conolly in that he was interested in recording the bodily postures of the patients and not just their facial expressions. Also, Charcot’s photographs were more elaborately framed and staged than Diamond’s pictures and some of the patients were photographed many times to the extent that some made sort of a career out of modeling for the iconographies.59

The presence of the photographic camera destabilized the ontology of the mental state of which it sought to provide ocular proof. If ocular demonstration and record were essential to the continued study of madness and mental illness, then the camera was called upon to keep producing and reproducing the object of study (madness): to demonstrate the cure meant to provide the illness first. Thus, even as the camera claimed to be the most objective and technologically advanced method of studying insanity, its sheer presence challenged the reality of the object it was supposed to represent objectively. Charcot’s theatrical experiments were by no means an exception. In 1908 The New York Times announced the success of the Italian neurologist Camillo Negro, of the University of Turin, in ‘using the cinematograph for clinical purposes. … Particularly striking have been his demonstrations of cases of organic hysterical hemiplegia, epileptic seizures, and attacks of chorea.’60 One of Negro’s short films demonstrates the increasing theatricalization of symptoms, showing how the new media of photography and film made it increasingly difficult to distinguish real symptoms from their simulation. In the film in question, which was shown to students at a medical academy in Turin, a female patient undergoes induced hysteria (the woman is wearing a mask to conceal her identity). The film opens with the doctor facing the woman, who suddenly goes berserk and eventually falls into convulsions (the cause triggering this behavior remains unknown to the audience). A long static take shows the doctor and another man trying to restrain the woman and bind her down to the bed. She stops convulsing for a moment

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and then starts again. The two men occasionally glance at the camera and say something, perhaps explaining what is going on. Finally, she lies still. One of them shakes up her body. She does not move. They position her still body in the center of the bed, the doctor wraps his arm around her and looks at the camera as if to suggest that ‘the show is over.’ In Studies in Hystera (1895) Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud built on Charcot’s demonstrations of hysteria. Their account of the case of Anna O. suggested that, just as physical pathology was ‘hidden’ within normal physical movements, as Londe’s camera had demonstrated, so mental pathology was rooted in normal psychological processes, such as day-dreaming, for example, which, after a certain point, deteriorates into ‘a hallucinatory absence.’61 Breuer and Freud saw pathology as a lack of self-presence manifesting as an increasing compartmentalization of consciousness, part of which continues to exist automatically in the real world (usually performing some kind of mechanical action), while another part becomes dissociated. They attributed this process of dissociation to particular private or social circumstances such as, for instance, Anna O.’s especially monotonous private and public life, which left a large amount of her mental energy unemployed. Both consciousness and the unconscious were thus understood in terms of attention and energy: being unconscious begins in the normal state of being inattentive or distracted, which in turn presupposes the availability of surplus energy that has not been tapped into. The dissociation of personality starts out as a dissociation from reality, since reality fails to make a strong enough claim on the individual, leaving her free to disengage that surplus energy somewhere else (in unconscious acts, reveries and hallucinations): Reveries and reflections during a more or less mechanical occupation do not in themselves imply a pathological splitting of consciousness, since if they are interrupted ‒ if, for instance, the subject is spoken to ‒ the normal unity of consciousness is restored. … In the case of Anna O., however, this habit prepared the ground upon which the affect of anxiety and dread was able to establish itself in the way I have described, when once that affect had transformed the patient’s habitual day-dreaming into a hallucinatory absence. (141-142)

Anna developed a second state of consciousness which first emerged as a temporary absence and later became organized into a ‘double conscience’. … But whereas the paralysis experimentally provoked by Charcot in his patients became stabilized


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immediately... [Anna’s] contracture, as well as the other disturbances that accompanied it, set in only during the short absences in her condition seconde and left her during her normal state in full control of her body and possession of her senses. (142)

Anna was thus ‘split into two personalities of which one was mentally normal and the other one insane’ (143); her mental health depended on the ‘intrusion of the secondary state into the normal one’ (142). Freud and Breuer suggested that the second state was actually necessary for the proper functioning of the normal self: the second state disposed of everything that was ‘mentally toxic’, allowing the rest of the self to function properly. The splitting of consciousness ‒ ‘mental alienation’ ‒ appeared to be constitutive of mental health: If these products [Anna’s ‘bad self’] had not been continually disposed of, we should have been faced by a hysteric of the malicious type ‒ refractory, lazy, disagreeable and ill-natured; but, as it was, after the removal of those stimuli her true character, which was the opposite of all these, always re-appeared at once. (143)

Just as Charcot’s experiments made the production and reproduction of hysteria necessary for its cure and its ‘objective’ recording by the camera, Anna’s second state of mental alienation was a necessary precondition for the ‘return’ of her ‘true’ character. Originally, the new sciences of the mind reflected the shapelessness of their object of study ‒ hysteria being endlessly open to interpretation, a signifier without a signified ‒ and thus positioned themselves in opposition to Freud’s theory, which was based on reading symptoms/signifiers to discover the repressed or unconscious signifieds to which they refer (the causes of a disease or the origins of a dream). Pre-Freudian sciences of the mind emphasized the appearance of a disease: reading the visual symptoms of a disease meant understanding it.62 The disease did not point to anything behind it (the real cause or the essence of the disease): the image of the disease was the disease. However, already in Photographie Moderne (1888), Londe noted a radical shift in the conceptualization of hysteria (and, more generally, of madness and mental illness) from Charcot’s notion of hysteria, which stressed its physical/visual manifestations, to Freud’s redefinition of hysteria, which emphasized its linguistic expression: Selon une réputation désormais acquise, de Charcot à Freud, la transformation de la Clinique de l’hystérie se serait effectuée par une

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véritable révolution de l’espace du regard en un espace de l’écoute. … Une épithète surtout reste accolée aux neurologies: celle de ‘visuel’, qu’il était le premier à s’appliquer, et que Freud ne manquer pas de souligner dans la notice nécrologique qu’il consacre en 1893 à son ancien maître. À l’époque de Charcot, ce terme renvoie à l’observation rigoureuse qui fonde la Clinique, contre les errements de la médecine doctrinaire. Le contexte disparu, l’oeuvre de Freud lui substituent un registre d’opposition fort différent. En psychoanalyse ou en psychothérapie, le conseil de priviler la parole, et non seulement de mettre un filtre à son regard, mais de la négliger complètement fait désormais partie du commun sensé. (102-103)63

The significance of this shift from the eye to the ear ‒ from how the insane look to how the insane talk and what they talk about (recurring motifs, patterns, preoccupations) ‒ lay in the fundamentally social nature of language, which, in turn, suggested the possibility that insanity itself might be, to a large extent, a social construct. The transition to a greater awareness of the social construction of madness and mental illness was paralleled by the gradual decline of the dominant artistic movements of the nineteenth century, realism and naturalism. The emergence of naturalism in nineteenth-century literature64 was, in the beginning, paralleled by photography’s attempts to model itself on chemistry, le science par excellence at the fin de siècle. Up until the diffusion of gelatin-silver bromide, most photographic work had consisted in the perfection of various chemical processes and their skillful manipulation. By the end of the nineteenth century, however, naturalism and realism were losing their hold. Photography’s supposed neutrality or objectivity,65 and its claim to scientific validity, increasingly came under attack as debates about the uses of photography by the new sciences of the mind emphasized the camera’s contribution to the theatricalization of symptoms; in other words, to the transformation of madness into a performance. Photography, and then film, introduced the threat of fraudulence in human behavior and thus in the sciences studying human behavior. The new media’s original claim to scientific objectivity in the study of madness and mental illness eventually gave way to an emphasis on the skillfulness of the performance of madness and mental illness. With the shift from pre-Freudian ideas claiming a oneto-one correspondence between mental and physical states to Freudian theories of the psyche, the human face became an opaque surface meant to amuse rather than reveal hidden psychological states. As Tom Gunning observes, ironically, the development of photography spurred the desire to


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know the face (and the secrets behind it) but, at the same time, this desire also spurred the technical development of photography, and eventually cinema. As photography and cinema became more and more technically advanced, the emphasis shifted away from the scientist’s use of the new technology to the performance of those recorded by it: Paradoxically, once the illusion of motion was technically feasible, emphasis could shift from the dominating eye of the scientist to the skill of the performer as the facial close-up became an arena for grotesque grimaces and goo-goo eyes … The face had formerly served as a guarantor of meaning and significance … but modern science and medicine dissolved this guarantor into pure physical materiality or a welter of chaotic symptoms. Yet as the techniques of photography attempted to penetrate this apparent chaos and discover new patterns of regularity, the popular art of early cinema again allowed this investigation to dissolve into curiosity and amusement. (160, 17, my italics)66

The increasing confluence between aesthetic and scientific modernism set up a self-perpetuating relationship between science and aesthetics such that the experimental aspect of science verged increasingly on the performative, while science claimed to explain rationally the supposedly hidden, unknowable, unconscious forces unleashed in such ‘performances’. Attempts to study the irrational with the methods of positivist science went hand in hand with the increasing theatricalization of science. Since the irrational was associated with the unconscious, and the unconscious was ‘invisible’, the only access science had to its newly acquired object of study was through dramatization: the irrational/the invisible had to be rendered visible/rational. The easiest way for science to preserve its authority was to claim that the irrational and the pathological was visually encoded (in faces, gestures, behaviors) and could therefore be studied with the methods of positivist science. Science’s authority came to depend on the idea that the irrational/the unconscious/ the pathological is exclusively a matter of appearance. It was certainly no accident, then, that the new media of photography and cinema were immediately recruited in the service of the new sciences of mind. The fin-de-siècle was a period during which, on the one hand, scientific experiments (like Duchenne’s) shaped the development of film aesthetics (exemplified by the preoccupation with the stylized close-up in cinema) while, on the other hand, the theatricalization of hysteria, via its photographic and cinematographic record, influenced evolving concepts of mind and consciousness. Science was influencing photography and film, which,

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through their use in scientific contexts and for scientific purposes,67 were in turn dictating the paradigmatic shifts in the diagnosis and treatment of the major diseases of the period, hysteria and multiple personality. Once the scientific question ‘What is the nature of this phenomenon?’ was rephrased as ‘What does this phenomenon appear to be?’, reason could no longer declare itself in the old, Cartesian way. ‘Thinking’ and ‘subject’ could no longer be defined in terms of the Cartesian privileging of pure thought. By registering automatically both our conscious and unconscious movements/ gestures, the camera would condemn us to a perennially exposed mode of existence, of which it would provide an inevitable surplus of proof. The entire burden of the proof of our existence and our sanity would, from now on, rest with the camera, which would render the notion of the cogito as ‘hidden’ or ‘invisible’, obsolete. The camera introduced an element of theatricality or insincerity that would eventually permeate the larger intellectual climate of modernity and play a central role in the birth of existentialism, with its emphasis on the inherent inauthenticity or theatricality of the self.


Cinema and Psychoanalysis

In ‘Réflexions sur les représentations iconographiques de l’alienne au XIXe siècle’, Bénédict Augustin Morel and Claude Quetel attribute the declining importance of photography at the end of the nineteenth century to the rise of psychoanalysis and the attendant shift from the eye to the ear: Si de la physionomie a la phrénologie, on a pu aboutir en 1861 avec Broca a une théorie neurologique des localisations cérébrales le passage de la physionomie au portrait ‘didactique’ d’alienne et aux supports idéologiques qu’il suppose, échappe a son propos, car il ne correspond pas finalement a l’objet de la psychiatrie. Non pas seulement parce que l’élimination de tout aspect dynamique rend l’image inadéquate, mais surtout, parce que, des la fin du XIX siècle, les apports de la psychologie des profondeurs et en particulier de la psychoanalyse, allaient montrer que la discipline psychiatrique est affaire d’écoute plutôt que de regard. Et depuis un quart de siècle, l’illustration a disparu des ouvrages de psychiatrie … en attendant le relais des nouvelles techniques audiovisuelles. (169)1

Although by the 1920s, the trope of cinema as an analogy for mental life had become commonplace, Freud rejected cinema as antithetical to psycho­ analysis: the unconscious, he insisted, does not offer itself to be seen, and cinema, despite its seeming similarity to dream, fails to acknowledge the tremendous amount of condensation accomplished in the transformation of dream-thoughts into dream-content: ‘The dream is meagre, paltry and laconic in comparison with the range and copiousness of the dream-thoughts. … The degree of condensation is ‒ strictly speaking ‒ indeterminable.’2 Despite his hostility to cinema, however, in The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) Freud made frequent use of optical images as analogues for the operations of the psyche, pointing up the parallel histories of cinema and psychoanalysis.3 In Discourse Networks 1800/1900, Friedrich Kittler reads Freud’s ban on images as marking the return of language in the image-dominated discourse network of 1900: ‘The fact that psychoanalysis, given the options of cinematic dream and the tachistoscope, chose the symbolic method, is indicative of its place in the system of sciences in 1900’ (278). Like Bergson, who denounced the cinematographic mechanism of consciousness for its failure to grasp the continuous flow of the durée, cutting it up into discrete images, Freud was concerned with ‘the problem of exhausting the flood of


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images’ (277). In the fin de siècle technologically-driven discourse network, which enabled the indiscriminate recording of data, psychoanalysis acted as a buffer against the threat of nonsense and excess, which it struggled to transform into something meaningful. Thus, one of the reasons for the emergence of psychoanalysis during that period ‒ and one of its functions ‒ was the need to sort and decode material discarded by psychophysics, nonsensical material that experimental subjects recorded as meaningful (as in Ebbinghaus’s phonographic tests). ‘Freud’s discourse was a response not to individual miseries,’ argues Kittler, ‘but to a discourse network that exhaustively records nonsense, its purpose being to inscribe people with the network’s logic of the signifier’ (282). Significantly, Kittler’s reading of psychoanalysis as both a reflection of, and a response to, deep-seated anxieties about legibility and meaning provoked by new technologies of reproduction, overlaps with Mary Ann Doane’s account of the way in which the new medium of film also problematized legibility. In The Emergence of Cinematic Time: Modernity, Contingency, the Archive (2002), Doane identif ies the tension between contingency and rationalization (the rationalization of time and space)4 as central to modernity and film. Early cinema, she argues, was about instants and their accountability with respect to meaning: cinema resolved the pressing conflict between meaning and contingency by offering an automatic inscription of contingency (as distinguished, for example, from Impressionist painting’s purposeful attempts to capture contingency), thereby making rationalization tolerable. Contingency was thus constructed both as a lure (film’s promise of indexicality, the promise of re-materializing and archiving time) and a threat (the threat of nonsense, illegibility and arbitrariness: any ‒ empty ‒ moment can be filmed). Film’s role in the structuring of attention exposed the natural predisposition of consciousness to drift, to involuntary rather than voluntary perception and memory: film promised to keep at bay the vertigo of drift by arresting time into moments that give us the illusion of presence. The narrativization of early cinema thus functioned as a defense mechanism against the threat of total representation cinema made possible. The Interpretation of Dreams was published in 1900, but it was not until Eugen Bleuer and Carl Jung began applying Freud’s theories and Freud was invited to lecture at Clark University in 1909 that psychoanalysis began to receive some academic recognition. In his Clark lectures, Freud challenged Pierre Janet’s theory that hysteria was the result of hereditary degeneracy, arguing that hysterics showed no signs of impaired mental ability and that their illness was the result of repressed psychological trauma. The following

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year Freud established the International Psychoanalytical Association in Zurich, naming Carl Jung president.5 While in Europe psychoanalysis had to confront a deeply rooted psychiatric community, as a result of which it remained limited to the intellectual elite, in America psychoanalysis grew into a mass phenomenon.6 One reason for the warmer reception of psychoanalysis in America was the growing popularity of other movements promoting mental healing and self-empowerment. The Boston-based Emmanuel Movement, which advocated a psychological approach to religious healing, was at the peak of its popularity just before Freud’s visit to Clark University; while it retained some traces of Transcendentalism, the movement was instrumental in popularizing the ideas of Janet, Prince, and Freud. What promoted psychoanalysis from an obscure European theory to a mass cultural phenomenon in America was its applicability to biological and socio-cultural studies of both normal and abnormal psychology and its focus on sexuality.7 Freud came to America at an important moment of crisis in those aspects of American culture that psychoanalysis would influence the most: the treatment of nervous and mental disorders (there was an increase in the incidence of nervous and mental disease and a decline in recovery rates) and sexual morality.8 In the face of the growing popularity of Darwinism, relativism and pragmatism, the norms of civilized morality were beginning to crumble and, along with them, the models of the human mind upon which they were based. The fact that social norms were consistently invoked to diagnose an ostensibly medical condition ‒ for example, patients suffering from nervous or mental disorders were described as ‘alienated,’ ‘withdrawn in affection’, and their thinking as ‘confused’ or ‘disordered’ ‒ suggested that madness might be simply an intensification of everyday problems, and that there was a continuity, rather than a radical break, from normality to madness.9 Psychoanalysis challenged not only civilized morality but also the ‘somatic style’ in neurology and psychiatry, with which it had been historically associated in America. One of the most important aspects of the somatic style was the localization of functions in the brain: paranoia, for instance, was considered the result of a general atrophy of the brain, melancholia and mania the result of cortical irritation, and hallucinations the result of abnormal subcortical functioning.10 The somatic style was based on the theory of parallelism between the psychological and the neurological system: states of consciousness (emotions, thoughts, volitions, ideas) were believed not to influence or produce physical states. One of the functions of the somatic style was to prop up the norms of civilized morality: accordingly, rational thought and judgment were ‘located’ in the frontal lobes of the cortex, which inhibited the action of the ‘lower’ centers


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where the primitive drives and instincts were located. The somatic style posited that in cases of insanity, conscious, voluntary judgment and action were compromised, leaving involuntary, automatic behavior unaffected. In the first decade of the twentieth century the somatic style came under serious attack as hereditary explanations of neurosis and insanity proved lacking, laboratory research failed to uncover the pathology of many nervous disorders, and rates of recovery based on somatic treatment declined rapidly. New, holistic approaches to mental disorder challenged the theory of parallelism between mental and brain states, showing that emotions and ideas could, in fact, alter bodily functions. Studies of automatic behavior and post-hypnotic suggestion, like those of F.W.H. Myers and Pierre Janet, demonstrated that ‘another self’ appeared spontaneously whenever the inhibitions constraining the primary self were dissolved. William James summed up the importance of these studies: In the wonderful explorations by Binet, Janet, Breuer, Freud, Mason, Prince and others, of the subliminal consciousness of patients with hysteria, we have revealed to us whole systems of underground life, in the shapes of memories of a painful sort which lead a parasitic existence buried outside of the primary fields of consciousness, and making irruptions thereinto with hallucinations, pains, convulsions, paralyses of feeling and of motion, and the whole procession of hysteric disease of body and of mind.11

The crisis of the somatic style led to the conceptualization of a dynamic unconscious and to greater attention to environmental factors in the etiology of mental and nervous disorder. Insofar as psychoanalysis showed insanity and neurosis to be merely different degrees of exaggeration from normality, it fitted the social agenda of American progressive movements with their emphasis on hope, efficiency, and social usefulness.12 Nevertheless, psychoanalysis was only one of many emerging models of mind at the fin de siècle, when disciplinary distinctions between neurology, psychology, experimental psychology, physiology, psychiatry, philosophy of mind and psychoanalysis were not yet clear. Up until the 1920s, other theories of mind ‒ by Bergson, James, and Janet ‒ were, in fact, more influential.13 The dominant understanding of hysteria, for example, was shaped by pre-Freudian sciences of the mind, particularly by Charcot’s spectacular demonstrations at the Salpêtrière in the 1880s, rather than by Freud’s and Breuer’s Studies on Hysteria (1895).14 Similarly, pre-1920s cinema was mostly influenced by pre-Freudian sciences of mind, particularly the psychiatric

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and psychological studies of facial physiognomy by Duchenne, Charcot and Albert Londe in the 1870s and 1880s.15 In his Preface to Cinéma et Folie, titled ‘Magie des images,’ Maurice Ferreri recounts the familiar story of film as originating in the split between ‘the realistic tendency’ in cinema (Lumière) and ‘the magic of images’ (Méliès), identifying ‘the Méliès tendency’ as the source of ‘the cinema of madness’, that is, films dealing with ‘the interior world’ and with ‘fantastic desires’. Ferreri associates ‘madness’, which he treats as a ‘shortcut’ for everything unrepresentable ‒ the most interior aspect of our existence ‒ with the development of film as a medium of representation. Indeed, in the first decades of the twentieth century, filmmakers argued for film’s status as an art form precisely by emphasizing film’s unique potential to represent alternate realities, identities and temporalities.16 In many national cinemas, the aesthetic of the fantastic film was equated with the unique potential of cinema to be an art form. Horror films in the fantastic tradition exploring the themes of the impostor, the doppelgänger,17 and the unreliability of perception and memory ‒ The Student of Prague (Stellan Rye and Paul Wegener, 1913), The Golem (Paul Wegener and Carl Boese, 1920), The Other (Max Mack, 1913), Homunculus (1916), and The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920) ‒ derived their status as artworks by positioning themselves as heirs to German Romanticism, making the irrational and the artistic potential of the film medium more or less synonymous.18 One of the earliest films to associate the irrational and the unconscious with the artistic potential of the film medium, linking madness/obsession to the problem of medium specificity, is Evgeni Bauer’s trilogy Mad Love (1913-1916). In After Death (1915), the second film in the trilogy, a talented actress falls in love with Andrei, whose failure to reciprocate her feelings drives her to suicide. Andrei becomes obsessed with the dead girl and tries to revive her image. By drawing a parallel between his attempts to revive the image of the dead girl in his memory, imagination and perception and photography’s power to revive the image of the dead, the film underscores photography’s role in Andrei’s descent into madness. At first Andrei summons her back through memories and dreams, which still keep her ghostly image in a separate visual realm. Eventually the medium of film brings the two worlds ‒ the real world and the invisible world of the dead ‒ together: the girl’s ghost now appears directly in Andrei’s room (through superimposition) and he even manages to tear out some of her hair. The film medium is constitutive of Andrei’s madness inasmuch as it makes possible the dissolution of the boundary between the visible and the invisible, the real and the unreal, that the madman experiences.


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The Dying Swan (1916), the third film in Bauer’s trilogy, continues to explore the link between madness and medium specificity. In the film an artist, unhappy with the traditional sketches of death he has been working on, is desperately looking for ‘real death’. After observing Gizella, a mute dancer with a broken heart, perform the dance of the Dying Swan, the artist becomes obsessed with the idea of using her as a live model for his most realistic representation of death yet. Gizella agrees to pose for him, but when her lover suddenly reappears and confesses his love to her, her happiness threatens the integrity of the artist’s depiction of death. In the end, the artist kills Gizella, thereby transforming his painting into a literal representation of death. Here, again, Bauer explores the artist’s obsession with death, which drives him to insanity and murder, through the problem of medium specificity ‒ in this case the media of painting, film, and dance. Realism in painting, especially in a painting of death, demands the subject’s absolute stillness: the perfect model for a painting of death is the perfectly still (that is, dead) model. Paradoxically, the film’s final shot ‒ a close up of the finished painting, which is not a real painting but a shot of the still ballerina pretending to be frozen in her dying pose ‒ declares the victory of film, the art of motion, over painting, in the ‘contest’ to represent stillness.19 By 1917 most of Freud’s major works were available in English. The media popularized the idea that insanity was not a ‘hereditary disease’ but an inability to adapt to one’s social environment. Psychotherapy was discussed in genteel magazines like The Atlantic, middlebrow digests like Current Literature, and in women’s magazines like Good Housekeeping and The Ladies’ Home Journal. A lavishly illustrated magazine devoted exclusively to medical psychotherapy and the Emmanuel movement ‒ Psychotherapy: A Course of Reading in Sound Psychology, Sound Medicine, and Sound Religion ‒ appeared in 1918. ‘Psychology has stepped down from the university chair into the market place,’ observed the New York Times in 1926; ‘It has become the order of the day to “psychologize” everything, from our wandering day dreams to the color of our shoes.’20 Joseph Jastrow attributed the popularity of psychoanalysis to its association with other liberations of the day, especially sex and jazz. Writing for The Nation in 1922, Maxwell Bodenheim warned that psychoanalysis was undermining the social taboos of the Victorian Age. It seems plausible that what made psychoanalysis especially attractive to Hollywood was its literary heritage, reflected in psychoanalysis’ emphasis on conflict ‒ between the personal desires and social norms, between individuality and authority ‒ which had, by that time, become the cornerstone of Hollywood film narrative. It is well known that many of the central ideas

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and terms in Freud’s writings are derived from Shakespeare, Greek tragedy and German literature.21 Similarly, the numerous case histories published in the period between 1880 and 1940 ‒ Eugene Azam’s Félida, Josef Breuer’s Anna O., Freud’s Dora, Wolf Man and Rat Man, and Morton Prince’s Miss Beauchamp ‒ departed stylistically from the short psychiatric cases that had previously been published in medical books. Reading like psychiatric Bildungsromans, or like film treatments in disguise, these new case histories appeared destined for Hollywood. Nevertheless, when the psychoanalysts Karl Abraham and Hanns Sachs approached Freud with a suggestion to collaborate on a film about psychoanalysis ‒ what would eventually become G.W. Pabst’s Secrets of a Soul (1926) ‒ Freud was less than enthusiastic: ‘There is no avoiding the film, any more than one can avoid the fashion for hair cut in a bob. I, however, will not let my hair be cut and will personally have nothing to do with this film.’22 Nevertheless, the majority of post-1920s films betray the growing influence of Freud’s ideas, particularly his critique of organic theories of madness, which were premised on the idea of mind-body parallelism. Horror/ fantasy films made in the 1920s treat bodies and minds as fundamentally unstable entities open to reproduction and recombination ‒ two techniques that also defined the new medium of film. The films share a series of common motifs: the motif of the doppelgänger/the impostor, the motif of the impersonal, that is to say, the ontological confusion between life and art, and between original and copy, the intersection of the discourse of madness with that of art and medium specificity, the concept of the body as open to division, multiplication and recombination, and the corresponding concept of the soul/mind as inhabiting different bodies (the last two concepts, in particular, foregrounding the problem of agency). Although not all films discussed below are specifically about madness, inasmuch as they all explore the mind-body relationship, they are indicative of the period’s prevalent understanding of whether or not mental states ‒ including madness ‒ are visually inscribed. One would expect that as a technological reproduction of reality, the new medium of film would strengthen the belief in mind-body parallelism, that it would present disfigured bodies as ‘symptomatic’ of deranged minds. Surprisingly, the majority of these early films complicate, and sometimes even challenge, the idea of mind-body parallelism either in the course of the narrative, which begins by treating the body as a mirror of the mind only to stress the difficulty of establishing a one-to-one relationship between the physical and the mental, or by exploring subjects such as disguises, masks, doppelgängers, impostors and waxworks, all of which destabilize claims


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of mind-body parallelism. Although still rooted in obsolete physiognomic models of madness, narratively the films testify to the rise of dynamic psychiatry and the growing skepticism about organic theories of madness, either by emphasizing the extent to which madness is internalized social judgment, or by playing tricks on the viewer, leading him to believe that a certain character is mad, only to expose, at the end of the film, the real madman: Dr. Caligari in The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari, Nera in The Hands of Orlac, and the mad mob in M. Even when the image of the madman in these films as degenerate and physically grotesque appears to be out of synch with the new premises of dynamic psychiatry, the stories are surprisingly progressive, emphasizing the volatile, moveable, socially constructed nature of madness and beginning to link the discourse of madness to the discourse of power. Visually, then, the films remained ‘stuck’ in the nineteenth century ‒ upholding the categorical distinction between sanity and insanity by emphasizing the correspondence between physical and mental deformity ‒ while narratively they anticipated the increasing de-pathologization of madness and mental illness that would culminate in the 1960s anti-psychiatry movement. In this respect, early horror/fantastic films played an important role in the transition from static, universalizing psychiatric paradigms, which constructed madness in terms of fixed, stylized states, to increasingly dynamic styles of psychiatry acknowledging the socially constructed nature of madness. In The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), Robert Louis Stevenson writes: ‘Man is not truly one, but truly two. I say two, because the state of my own knowledge does not pass beyond that point … and I hazard the guess that man will be ultimately known for a mere polity of multifarious, incongruous and independent denizens.’23 Lucius Henderson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1912) exploits cinematically the idea of an analogy between mental and physical deformity, even though by that time such theories were considered obsolete. In contrast to Dr. Jekyll, a white-haired dignified gentleman, Hyde’s grotesque body immediately betrays his ‘diseased mind’: a stunted hunchback with missing teeth complemented by an evil, insane look in his eyes and a pair of abnormally large hands ‘symbolizing’ his inhumanity and freakishness. Surprisingly, the film does not present Jekyll’s case as a one of amnesia. The first time Jekyll takes the drug and transforms into Hyde, he observes himself in the mirror, acknowledges the transformation, and quite purposefully takes the antidote to transform back into his ‘primary’ self. Eventually Jekyll starts changing into Hyde without actually taking the drug: he anticipates every subsequent transformation, even as he realizes he cannot control it, and remembers what he did in his

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secondary state (as Hyde) after he transforms back into Jekyll. By showing Jekyll anticipating his future transformations, without the help of the drug, the film suggests that these are not actual transformations of one person into another but rather mood swings revealing different aspects of the same personality in response to different situations. The final scene provides the ultimate confirmation of this dynamic concept of the self as intrinsically fluid and multiple. With the police knocking on his door, Jekyll ‒ who at that moment ‘is’ Hyde ‒ decides to poison himself, a self-destructive act that is unthinkable from the ‘evil’ Hyde’s point of view. Alternatively, if we assume that it is really Hyde who makes the decision to kill himself, his motivation for doing so cannot but be described as moral: conscious of the loss of the ‘better’, primary self (Jekyll), Hyde chooses to kill himself, which implies that Hyde has indeed ‘become’ Jekyll, or was always already Jekyll, inasmuch as he has developed a moral sense, something Hyde never had. Ultimately, while visually the film conforms to physiognomic theories of madness ‒ treating physical states as a ‘visual code’ for mental ones ‒ narratively it promotes a dynamic concept of the mind. If this tension between the visual and narrative aspect of the film is still a little vague in the 1912 adaptation, it is impossible to miss in John Robertson’s 1920 version. Robertson portrays Jekyll as a progressive scientist and philanthropist, who maintains a ‘human repair shop’ out of his own pocket. The real motivation behind Jekyll’s decision to ‘tamper with nature’ is his fiancée’s father’s hurtful attack on Jekyll’s masculinity. The father repeatedly mocks Jekyll’s lack of experience, particularly his fear of being tempted to indulge in illicit, socially objectionable behavior. The story is unmistakably Faustian: an innocent, essentially good man strikes a deal with the devil only to be undone by his own arrogance and narcissism. Like the earlier film, this version does not present Jekyll’s case as one of split personality. When Jekyll muses that life would be grand if only man’s two natures could be separated into two bodies, he is suggesting that every man, not only the insane, has two natures: the baser one (the physical body) and the nobler one (the soul). The film thus functions as a moral allegory about the consequences of giving oneself over to one’s bodily desires and needs: it explores the conflict within everyone, sane and insane, between the physical (sexual desires and violent urges) and the spiritual. At the same time, however, the film remains indebted to the late nineteenth-century discourse of degeneration, which construed the body as containing only a fixed amount of energy or ‘nerve force’ that is rapidly exhausted by the pressures of modern life. The sapping of life energies is exemplified by Jekyll’s transformation, which, appropriately, mimics the iconography


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of the vampire film. Hyde transforms into a hunchbacked, balding man with a puny body, his hands growing bigger, whiter and skinnier (even his fingernails grow longer). He is usually positioned behind or to the side of a woman, his attention focused on her exposed neck until he eventually bends down to kiss her in the same way Dracula bends down to drink the blood of his female victims, literally sucking out their vital energies. Robertson’s film promotes a dynamic concept of the mind by emphasizing the impossibility of separating Jekyll from Hyde. As in the earlier version of the film, amnesia does not play a part in the protagonist’s development: Jekyll remembers his actions in his ‘secondary state’ (as Hyde), just as Hyde remembers his actions in his ‘primary state’ (as Jekyll). The last sequence, in particular, in which Jekyll’s beloved, Millicent, comes looking for Hyde in his lodgings and confronts him in all his repulsiveness, foregrounds the dynamic concept of the self as inherently fluid and multiple. Millicent recognizes her beloved behind Hyde’s horrific face and when Hyde tries to kiss her, it is clear that it is Jekyll, in the guise of Hyde, who wants to kiss her: in short, Hyde never completely replaces Jekyll, and the two co-exist within the same self. The dynamic nature of the self is also underscored through the temporalization of Jekyll’s transformation, which in this version takes longer and consists of several phases. In the 1912 version the transformation is conveyed through the use of superimposition: the image of Jekyll is literally displaced, via a superimposition, by the image of Hyde. In the 1920 version, however, Jekyll’s transformation is presented as much more gradual: first his hands grow bigger, then his whole body starts contorting, and finally his face changes. In addition, Jekyll is very much aware of the change he is undergoing, following it with a mixture of curiosity and horror. Like the earlier version, the film ends with Jekyll poisoning himself in an attempt to atone for Hyde’s sins, which reinforces the idea that Jekyll and Hyde were never really separate personalities but aspects of the same personality. Insofar as both films focus on others’ responses to the protagonist’s transformation, they appear to be not so much about madness per se, but about socialization, which is conceived in terms of the mind-body dichotomy, with the body’s needs presented as an obstacle to socialization and therefore something to be sacrificed/repressed. Insanity and criminality are presented as resulting from a reversal of the established mind-over-body hierarchy. However, rather than suggest that physical deformities betray psychological ones (the premise of phrenology and physiognomy), the parallel transformation of body and mind in the two versions of the story ‒ the insane Hyde is also physically repulsive ‒ implies that mental disorders have physical manifestations. Inasmuch

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as it keeps the cause-and-effect relationship between the mental and the physical transformation ambiguous ‒ that is to say, reversible ‒ Robertson’s version seems much closer to Freud’s idea of hysterical conversion, in which repressed traumatic experiences are converted into somatic symptoms, than to older, purely organic theories of insanity. Jekyll drinks the potion with the explicit aim of changing his mind, not his body: his body changes as a result of, or in response to, his mental transformation, not vice versa; in other words, the causes of his insanity are mental rather than physical, even though the mental transformation assumes a physical form as well. The 1920 film depicts split personality ‒ much more explicitly than the earlier version ‒ not as a sign of insanity but as an allegory for man’s embodied existence. If these two films are concerned with madness at all, it is not with madness as the ‘opposite’ or the ‘other’ of reason or sanity; rather, the films suggest that madness results from a disturbance in the ‘proper’ hierarchy between the higher and the lower instincts. In both versions, the last scene foregrounds the moral motive behind the protagonist’s suicide ‒ Jekyll feels guilty for Hyde’s actions and atones for them by committing suicide. In short, the films present Jekyll not as an individual ‘split’ into a sane and an insane self, but as an integrated personality that acts differently under different circumstances, with no a priori law ‒ other than the social laws and customs humans live by ‒ that would make it possible to declare certain actions sane and others insane. Ultimately, the adaptations hint at the subject’s inability to declare himself sane or insane inasmuch as this type of judgment always comes from the outside. Wallace Worsley’s The Penalty (1920) tells the story of a young doctor, who botches his first serious case by mistakenly amputating a boy’s two legs. The boy (Blizzard) grows up to be the mastermind of the San Francisco underworld and plots a complicated revenge on the doctor, which involves seducing the doctor’s daughter and blackmailing her father to operate on him so as to reattach another man’s legs (those of the daughter’s suitor) to Blizzard’s crippled body. As with the two adaptations of the Jekyll and Hyde story, in The Penalty, the way in which madness is conceived remains at odds with the way it is visualized. The film follows physiognomic theories of madness. For the better part of the film, Blizzard’s insanity is visually coded in a very obvious way: he is a mean-looking cripple provoking everyone’s fear and disgust. The inter-titles, too, spell out the correspondence between physical and mental deformity: Blizzard’s revenge plan is to corrupt the soul of the doctor’s daughter just as her father corrupted Blizzard’s body. However, in the end the film rejects the parallelism between mental and physical deformity it has labored to establish all along and offers, instead,


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a psychological explanation for Blizzard’s madness: the doctor decides to operate on Blizzard’s head, rather than follow the madman’s request to amputate another man’s legs and attach them to Blizzard’s body. A flashback to the beginning of the film reminds us that when the doctor was treating the young Blizzard, he noted a contusion under the boy’s head. The doctor now explains that the contusion had put pressure on the brain, making Blizzard not fully conscious of, and thus not fully responsible for, his evil acts. By insisting on a psychological explanation of madness, the film undermines its own visual rhetoric: we understand, retrospectively, that we should not have read the deformity of Blizzard’s body and his vicious, menacing grimaces as signs of mental deformity. Blizzard wakes up from his head surgery as if from ‘a terrible dream’: he is restored back to his sanity, but unfortunately one of his former underworld cronies kills him while he is playing the piano. Just before he dies, Blizzard exclaims dramatically: ‘Fate chained me to Evil: for that I must pay the Penalty!’ After Blizzard’s death, his lover reveals the statue she made of him posing as Satan: ‘All that’s left of him,’ she says, pointing to the mask, ‘is an evil mask of a great soul!’ Although visually the film remains indebted to physiognomic theories of madness, narratively it already looks beyond such theories by dismissing the organic explanation of madness: the image of madness (the statue of Satan), we are told, is a misrepresentation, ‘an evil mask’, which conceals the true nature of Blizzard, ‘a great soul’. The Hands of Orlac (Robert Wiene, 1924) tracks the mental disintegration of a concert pianist. Following a train crash, Orlac’s hands have to be amputated and replaced with the hands of an executed murderer. The transplant surgery is not, however, represented as a purely physical experience: the real danger lies in the possibility of the murderer’s mind taking over Orlac’s mind and forcing him to commit crimes he cannot recall. After Orlac’s father is murdered, Orlac begins a steady descent into madness as he becomes the prime suspect in his father’s murder case. Although the whole story revolves around the substitution of body parts, the ending dismisses the significance of these body transplants by revealing that Orlac’s hands were not, in fact, those of the executed murderer. We learn that Nera, Dr. Serral’s hospital assistant, and a friend of Vasseur, the executed murderer, made wax casts of Vasseur’s fingertips and then made rubber gloves with the fingerprints of Vasseur. Vasseur is eventually found to be innocent: it was Nera who committed the murder for which Vasseur was hung. In one scene, Nera tries to trick Orlac into believing that he, Nera, is the murderer (Vasseur) come alive. He makes up a story that the doctors performed on him the same kind of surgery

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they performed on Orlac, only it involved attaching another man’s head to the murderer’s body. Not only does the film confuse the physical and mental boundaries between subjects by playing with the idea of mixing and matching body parts and the minds corresponding to them; it also depicts the individual’s relationship to himself as multiple by playing with the idea of phantom limbs becoming real, only to reveal them later as phantom. For instance, Nera’s hands do not have a stable ontological status: his hands 1) are his own (reality); 2) are gloved to appear like prostheses to substitute for his supposedly severed hands, since he is pretending to be Vasseur (here a reality ‒ the real gloved hands ‒ covers up a fantasy, since Nera’s hands were never actually cut off); 3) appear to be innocent but are actually guilty, since he committed both murders (reality). The same is true of Orlac’s hands: 1) they are not his but Vasseur’s (reality); 2) they are the hands of a murderer (this turns out to be a fantasy when Vasseur is revealed to be innocent). The hands that actually committed the two murders are also ontologically ambiguous: they are Nera’s real hands, but with Vasseur’s fingerprints. This ‘doubling’ ‒ one man’s hands but another man’s fingerprints ‒ is itself produced through a process of doubling: first Nera makes wax casts of Vasseur’s fingertips, after which he makes rubber gloves with Vasseur’s fingerprints. Vasseur’s own hands were detached from his body, and his fingerprints detached from his hands: reproduction here depends on the severing of limbs from the body to which they belong and of fingerprints from the fingertips that supposedly produced them. The film thus suggests that every part of the human body ‒ and, by extension, one’s identity, which is always embodied ‒ is a prosthetic device. At the end of the film the viewer is left with the question: given that Orlac’s hands are proven, at the end, to have been innocent all along, why does he act as though they were indeed a murderer’s hands? In one scene, Orlac goes back home, finds the knife with which the murder was committed (planted there by Nera, as we learn at the end) and uncontrollably stabs the air with the knife. The scene emphasizes the impulsiveness of his actions, which in retrospect suggests that he has internalized the idea of having a murderer’s hands ‒ and therefore being a murderer himself ‒ so successfully that he spontaneously or automatically performs the actions of a murderer (similarly, despite his innocence, he finds himself unable to play the piano any more). From this point of view, the revelation of the truth at the end seems irrelevant or, at best, serendipitous: if the police had not caught Nera, the odds are that Orlac would have committed a crime, since he had already internalized completely the image of himself as an insane murderer. The


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Hands of Orlac modernizes the pre-secular idea of madness as a form of demoniac possession by an outside force (Orlac is ‘possessed’ by the hands of the murderer, which make him do horrible things) by drawing a parallel between demoniac possession and the social construction of madness insofar as both are determined by external sources, be they religious or societal. Wiene had already developed this theme in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. In both films we are first led to believe that Cesare and Orlac are mad, since they are at the mercy of external forces: they are made to act, against their will, as if they are mad. However, both films go on to subvert this hypothesis, implying instead that the truly mad are not the individuals ‘acting like they are mad’ but the external forces constructing them as ‘mad’ in the first place: the mad doctor Caligari, who hypnotizes Cesare and the mad Nera who takes over Orlac’s mind by pretending to take over his body (his hands). The Hands of Orlac goes a little further than Caligari in suggesting that all a mad person needs to do to be cured is realize that they are not actually mad, that they have simply internalized society’s judgment of them as ‘mad’, a judgment they maintain through auto-suggestion (the interpellated subject of ideology ‘works by itself’). Although at the end of the film the real killer is exposed, and Orlac is pronounced innocent, the fact that earlier in the film he believed himself to be a mad criminal, in spite of his innocence and sanity, leaves open the possibility that his restored innocence is merely something he will learn to believe in, the same way he learned to believe in his culpability and insanity. In the final analysis, sanity and insanity are equally matters of belief and/or self-delusion. While Romanticism glorified the irrational in the figure of ‘the secret double’ ‒ a second, allegedly more authentic and free self sheltered from public discourse ‒ in 1920s films, the double is a highly problematic figure. Cesare the somnambulist does not embody the freedom of acting freely or instinctively but rather the danger of acting automatically. Here the irrational is not a force of liberation but the object of manipulation, and since the forces that manipulate it are the very forces of Reason ‒ represented by the director of a mental asylum, Dr. Caligari, who is supposed to act as the ultimate arbiter in distinguishing reason from unreason ‒ the irrational emerges as the product of the excesses of Reason rather than liberating us from Reason. The Hands of Orlac goes even further in overturning the Romantic association of the irrational with freedom and authenticity. In fact, Orlac is not a ‘straight’ double: he is both double (in the sense that his ‘personality’ is produced, after the accident, through a process of doubling: the duplication of hands, fingertips, and fingerprints) and multiple (in the sense that he combines the real with the fantasized: his hands, fingertips

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and fingerprints are ‘borrowed’ from different sources, some real, some fantasized). In short, Orlac is a much more complicated double than Cesare/ Caligari. Films from the 1920s all struggle with the same problem: how to show visually that madness is not coded visually. This accounts for the tension we find in them between the visual representation of madness, which betrays the continued influence of increasingly outmoded nineteenth-century organic theories of madness, and, on the other hand, the narrative elaboration of madness, which exposes ‘the image of madness’ as deceptive. By dramatizing the danger of believing oneself mad without being so, or of being mad without being aware of it, the narratives of these films construe madness as a social construct: significantly, it is only when the law interferes that the true criminal is revealed and the wrongly accused madman is encouraged to ‘realize’ that he is, in fact, sane. Only when Dr. Caligari and Nera are apprehended by the law and declared mad are the protagonists in these films, who have been questioning their own sanity all along, allowed to declare themselves sane (‘If he is insane, I must be sane’). Another important way in which 1920s and 1930s films illustrate the increasing popularity of psychoanalysis ‒ in addition to challenging the belief in mind-body parallelism ‒ is by foregrounding the problem of agency. In opposition to Carl Schorske’s Fin-de-siècle Vienna (1980), whose author considers psychoanalysis a counter-political phenomenon that reflects the general public’s withdrawal from reason and public life, and contrary to critics from the Frankfurt School who blame psychoanalysis for the decline of the Enlightenment idea of autonomy, Eli Zaretsky reads the discovery of the unconscious, and its endowment with agency, as evidence of the emancipatory aspects of psychoanalysis’ exploration of the human psyche. Psychoanalysis made personal identity into a problem and a project for individuals: ‘While the first modernity ‒ the Enlightenment ‒ viewed the individual as the locus of reason in the sense of universal and necessary truths, the second ‒ call it “modernism” ‒ viewed the individual as a concrete person, located in a particular time and place subject to historical contingency and possessing a unique psychical life.’24 Zaretsky thus credits psychoanalysis with the emergence of a new idea of personal ‒ as opposed to moral ‒ autonomy. In his discussion of the modernist mind, Mark Micale also emphasizes the ‘massive “turn inward”’ registered by the arts and psychiatric medicine at the fin de siècle.25 However, this ‘turn inward’ and the rise of the notion of ‘the self’ coincided with what Judith Ryan, in The Vanishing Subject: Early Psychology and Literary Modernism (1991), refers to as ‘the vanishing of the


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self’. Ironically, the construction of the self at the fin de siècle was at the same time its deconstruction, as evidenced by the increasing interest in hypnosis and automatism.26 Hypnosis features prominently in early films, for instance in Meliès’ The Drunkard’s Dream (1897), The Artist’s Dream (1898), The Beggar’s Dream (1898), Dream of a Hindu Beggar (1902), Dream of the Ballet Master (1903), Dream of an Opium Fiend (1908), The Hypnotist’s Revenge (1909), Max Hypnotized (Max Linder 1910), and Convicted by Hypnotism (Éclair 1912). After 1885 numerous researchers staged simulated hypnotic crimes to study the possibility of post-hypnotic suggestion27 (the hypnotized subject committing a crime long after he has been hypnotized, under the illusion of acting out of his own volition) and of implanting a false memory in the hypnotized patient’s past.28 Significantly, the ideas of post-hypnotic suggestion and false memory became possible only with the introduction at the fin de siècle of new technologies of reproduction, which externalized time and space and made them subject to technological manipulation. In Leonce Perret’s Le mystère des roches de Kador (1912), which according to the 1995 Pordenone Silent Film Festival was the first psychoanalytic film, hypnotic power is used therapeutically to restage the female protagonist’s trauma in order to help her deal with it. When the doctor shows the woman a brochure, titled ‘Lecture to the Academy of Medicine on the Observations of Professor Williams Regarding the Application of the Cinematograph to Psychotherapy,’ the following excerpt is highlighted: This marvellous invention, used only recently in ‘mental medicine’, seems destined to occupy a prominent place in it very quickly. The luminous vibrations of cinematographic images, transmitted by means of the optic nerve of the retina, are registered on the cells of the cerebral cortex and result in a particular state of hypnosis which lends itself admirably well to therapeutic suggestion.29

Even as the medical authorities were promoting the use of the new medium for therapeutic purposes, cinema’s potentially detrimental psychological effects on audiences ‒ its power to distract viewers to the point of exhausting or deforming their mental faculties ‒ was not lost on the authorities. In 1921 the president of Le conseil d’administration de la Ligue d’Hygiene Mentale, Dr. Edouard Toulouse, informed the members of the Council that ‘Le cinéma peut être considéré du point de vue de l’hygiène mentale sous un double aspect: 1. Comme Agent de distraction; il peut déterminer la fatigue, l’épuisement. 2. Comme Agent de contagion et de déformation

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mentale.’30 Dr. Tolouse’s observations on the effect of cinema on the masses were based on Gustave Le Bon’s analysis of the psychology of the crowd. In La psychologie des foules (1895), Le Bon argued that ‘collectivities lose the faculties of will and ratiocination possessed by individuals’ and that ‘the psychological features of the individual in the crowd are those of the constitutional hysteric: immorality, impulsiveness, susceptibility to suggestion, and emotional excitability.’31 Following Le Bon, Dr. Tolouse underscored the disconcerting similarity between film’s techniques of spatial and temporal displacement or condensation, and the derangement of time and space that is characteristic of dreams: ‘D’autant que ce qui distingue d’abord le cinéma, c’est qu’il reproduit sans obligation de distorsion la réalité et, de par la même, impose un imaginaire qui tire son efficacité de sa structure même, a savoir qu’elle s’apparent au rêve, le déplacement et la condensation telle que Freud les explicite dans la Traumdentung.’32 The well-known account of the audience’s reaction to the first Lumière screening seemed to provide sufficient evidence of the similarities between film spectators and the insane, particularly those suffering from hysteria, which, as Charcot had demonstrated, results from a traumatic experience that is, more often than not, fantasized rather than lived. Among the numerous cases of hysteria Charcot studied was that of a rail traveler who was imprudent enough to attempt to change carriages while the train was still in motion. While he was on the step outside the train, the man noticed the train was about to enter a tunnel. Hanging on with his right hand and foot, he expected his left side to be crushed once the train entered the tunnel. He fainted, but was hauled in, uninjured, by his traveling companions. In due course he developed a paralysis of the entire left side of his body. Charcot used this case to demonstrate the formation of a hysterical symptom, which, he claimed, developed subsequent to a purely psychic trauma but in accordance with the specific injury the patient expected to receive, but which he in fact escaped. Charcot noted the lapse of time between the original trauma and the emergence of the hysterical symptom, claiming that in some cases, the mental elaboration of the phantom trauma could take days or even weeks. The analogy between Charcot’s description of a hysteric’s response to a traumatic incident that he did not experience, and the spectators’ visceral reaction to Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat (1895), was not lost on psychologists and psychoanalysts at the time: Il suffire de remplacer contagion par régression pour avoir, sans aucune interprétation arbitraire, une idée précise de la façon don’t les aliénistes envisageaient la séance cinématographique un


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rassemblement a haut risqué pathogène. Cette suspicion permanente se fonde sur une conception du traumatisme qui remonte Charcot et un usage de la censure hérite de la guerre 1914-1918 … en effet, de par sa nature même, et surtout a une époque ou il est muet, le cinéma suppose l’hysterisation. Autant nous comprenons que la passion puisse produire un film de propagande … autant il parait impossible de mettre en scène une représentation du normal. C’est la même impossibilité qui fictionne quant au pathologique, nul scénario ne pourrait s’écrire a partir d’une observation clinique si elle-ci ne se situait pas dans un contexte suffisamment riche en péripéties pour la rendeuse cinématographique.33

Alienists compared cinematographic séances to Charcot’s séances with hysterical patients, and, at the same time, saw something inherently cinematic ‒ dramatic ‒ in the behavior of mental patients and in its clinical observation. Cinema’s apparent proximity to hysteria was further reinforced by the absence of sound: silent film resembled a hysterical patient who could not clearly and rationally articulate his state of mind, but could only flail about and produce random, over-dramatic gestures. In short, silent film was too visceral (provoking comparisons with the super-present or super-saturated hysterical body as the site of eruption of various repressed desires and fears) and not sufficiently rational (deprived of the ‘medium’ of Reason: language). The anxiety surrounding the reception of film was not unjustified: as Tom Gunning has shown, drawing attention to the internal split experienced by the early film spectator between illusion and reality ‒ a split that ‘qualifies’ him as proto-schizophrenic ‒ early film undermined the metaphysics of Cartesian certainty.34 Some specifically cinematic devices, such as the close-up and the point of view shot, enacted the hypnotic power of cinema.35 In The Photoplay: A Psychological Study (1916) Münsterberg explicitly invoked the analogy between cinema and hypnosis: ‘The spellbound audience in a theater or in a picture house is certainly in a state of heightened suggestibility and is ready to receive suggestions’ (97). Similar to the plot of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, numerous medical researchers described the film spectator as the victim of a posthypnotic suggestion controlling the spectator’s thoughts and actions after he or she has left the movie theater.36 Medical textbooks on hypnotism from 1910 to 1920 emphasized the similarities between watching a film and the hypnotic recall of a past event: in 1918 the psychoanalytic theorist Ernst Simmel compared the hypnotic recovery of memory to watching a film, and in 1922 the physician Ernst

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Kretchmer described the mental processes taking place in hypnosis and free association as ‘picture strip thinking.’37 The notion of possession, central to the discourse of hypnosis and suggestion, and ostensibly incommensurable with modernity, turned out to be constitutive of fin de siècle medical, legal and literary discourses. Durkheim’s Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912) conceived of the forces of social cohesion as working through complex ‘psychic mechanisms’ that were not external to the subject but seized ‒ possessed ‒ him from within. Anthropological theories also presented social cohesion as a form of possession, anticipating Althusser’s concept of interpellation. In Laws of Imitation (1890), Gabriele Tarde referred to ‘social man’ as a ‘veritable somnambulist.’38 The interest in automatism and hypnosis was part of a larger fascination with studying the irrational using the methods of positivist science. The London Society for Psychical Research, for instance, published a wide range of ‘scientific’ studies of occult phenomena, such as somnambulism, animism, spiritism, telepathy, trance speech, glossolalia, cryptomnesia, and automatic writing. Mark Micale sees the fascination with such phenomena ‘as an effort to recover the spiritual in the face of … medical materialism.’39 However, the recovery of the spiritual came at a price. Occult phenomena such as the ones listed above ‒ phenomena that provided both the subject matter and the methodology for the new sciences of mind ‒ all dramatized the vanishing of the subject. In this context, one possible reason for the appeal of psychoanalysis might have been its potential to assuage some of the anxieties provoked by such equally fascinating and threatening depersonalizing experiences. Psychoanalysis dealt with the problem of the vanishing subject by proposing that consciousness constituted the smaller, inner circle within the larger and ultimately infinite circle of the unconscious, which was ‒ and this is important ‒ still defined in highly personal, idiosyncratic terms. Psychoanalysis recuperated the vanishing subject by introducing a second self, endowed with as much, indeed with more, agency as the ‘first’ (conscious) self. 40 ‘How are we to understand the simultaneous emergence of certain shared metaphors ‒ the dissolution of the real, visualizing the unseen, the primitive in the modern ‒ across European culture during these years?’ asks Mark Micale. 41 One possible answer is that the dissolution of the real, to which the new media of photography and film no doubt contributed, was recuperated in the visualization of the unseen: in this new redistribution of the senses, the less real the visible, the more real the invisible. As mysterious and intimidating as the ‘second’ self appeared to be, however, it was also endowed with therapeutic potential: as Freud kept insisting,


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the unconscious was the key to the subject’s neuroses and psychoses. Thus, from the very beginning the unconscious was constructed as both the cause of madness and a cure for it. The psychoanalytic movement underwent a significant change in the 1930s, when the optimism of the pre-war years gave way to the bleakness of the Depression. Critics of psychoanalysis questioned its claims to scientific status, the validity of Freud’s sexual theories, and the threat psychoanalysis represented to civilized morality. Most of the doctors who called themselves ‘psychoanalysts’ in the 1920s lacked legitimate training. In an attempt to combat ‘fake psychoanalysis’ Freud began advocating for the establishment of psychoanalytic institutes similar to the ones in Vienna and Berlin, which would train physicians to be psychoanalysts. Psychoanalysis continued to be attacked by physicians and experimental psychologists, for whom psychoanalysis was ‘a pseudoscience like palmistry, graphology, and phrenology,’42 as well as by religious leaders, especially after the publication of The Future of an Illusion (1928), in which Freud argued that religion was an illusion that would eventually become extinct. In addition, psychoanalysis experienced competition from other scientific movements, including psychobiology, which foreshadowed the direction psychiatry would take in the coming decades with the introduction of psychotropic drugs. 43 As filmmakers struggled to visualize the newly discovered unconscious, they often fell back on the older, familiar discourse of hypnosis and suggestion, depicting the unconscious as an external force depriving the subject of his will. In the 1930s films turned to exploring the problem of attributing agency or the consequences of misattributing agency, usually as a result of ‘transplanting’ body parts symbolically associated with agency (heads, brains, arms, and hands). This is perhaps another reason why crime is often central to these narratives: the perpetration of a criminal act ‒ along with assigning guilt and responsibility ‒ illustrates the problem of agency in the most visual and dramatic way. In Karl Freund’s Mad Love (1935)44 ‒ a remake of Wiene’s The Hands of Orlac ‒ psychoanalysis competes with the older discourse of hypnosis and suggestion. Although the film openly acknowledges the popularity of psychoanalysis in explaining psychological disorders, it does not shy away from criticizing or even mocking it. When Stephen Orlac, the unfortunate pianist who loses his hands in a train accident, complains to Gogol that his new hands are not good for playing the piano but seem to be more skilled at throwing knives and murdering people, Gogol ‘diagnoses’ Orlac with ‘arrested wish fulfillment,’ the result of a deep childhood trauma. At some point in Orlac’s childhood, Gogol explains, Orlac must have wanted

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something very badly but was prevented from acting upon his desire. As a result, the desire became repressed, lying dormant all these years before suddenly reappearing, demanding to be satisfied. If only Orlac could recall this unsatisfied desire he would be cured. However, this psychoanalytic interpretation is immediately discredited: instead of exploring Orlac’s mental trauma (his broken psyche) by looking for clues in his past, the film revives the older definition of trauma as physical trauma, insisting that Orlac’s sudden bouts of criminally insane behavior are simply the result of replacing his hands with those of a murderer. Madness is construed as an external force ‘possessing’ the normal self: hence the importance of prostheses and of various contraptions supposed to represent ‘imaginary’ prostheses. Reviving the familiar visual motif of the abnormal hands of the vampire and of Mr. Hyde ‒ the transformation of their hands is the first visual sign of ‘abnormality’ ‒ Mad Love inscribes madness visually in the foreign hands grafted onto Olrac’s stumps, in Gogol’s prosthetic hands (made of metal) and in his prosthetic head, both of which are artificial contraptions that Gogol devises to convince Orlac that he is Rollo, the man with severed hands and head that have been surgically reattached. The film visualizes the ‘unconscious’ as a prosthetic device: to suggest that someone is doing something unconsciously, the hands performing the unconscious action must be literally someone else’s hands. The image of Gogol disguised as the dead Rollo sums up perfectly the idea of the unconscious as foreign or external to consciousness inasmuch by visualizing the relationship of consciousness to the unconscious on analogy with that between the body and what is foreign to the body, namely prosthetic devices. The unconscious is not part of consciousness but a foreign element external to it, just as prosthetic devices are not part of the body but artificial appendages that remain foreign to it. At the same time, however, the function of a prosthetic device is to replace a part of the body that is malfunctioning or simply absent (e.g., an amputated limb). Thus although the unconscious is construed as a prosthetic device that does not belong to consciousness, this prosthetic device also reveals a lack within consciousness, a lack constitutive of consciousness: the unconscious in early ‘transplant films’ functions according to the logic of the Derridean supplement. The image of Gogol impersonating the dead Rollo spells this out: the unconscious mind is made visually literal as a prosthetic head, while the hands, representing agency, are literally replaced by a pair of prosthetic hands. Tod Browning’s Devil Doll (1936) also externalizes the unconscious by imagining ‘the second self’ through the familiar discourse of hypnosis and suggestion: the unconscious is not within the self but a powerful force acting


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upon the self from without. In the film, Paul Lavond, wrongly convicted of robbing his own bank and killing a night watchman seventeen years ago, escapes Devil’s Island with Marcel, a scientist working on a formula to reduce people to one-sixth of their original size. The intended purpose of the formula is to make the Earth’s limited resources last longer for an ever-growing population. When Marcel suddenly dies, Lavond, along with Marcel’s widow, decide to use the shrinking technique to obtain revenge on Lavond’s former business associates. The film updates The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, with Lavond (the good version of Caligari) shrinking a half-witted girl to the size of a doll, and in the process perfecting her brain. He then manipulates the girl to take revenge on his associates and clear his name. As he explains, shrinking people to a miniature size makes their brains shrink as well, which in turn results in the loss of all personal memories and personal will, leaving people incapable of acting unless they obey someone else’s will. Despite the growing popularity of psychoanalysis in the 1920s and 1930s, filmmakers continued to struggle with the difficulty of visualizing what is supposed to be hidden: the unconscious. This may account for the fact that although on the level of narrative, many of the films made during this period revealed a degree of familiarity with psychoanalytic concepts, when it came to representing the unconscious, they fell back on the older discourse of suggestion and hypnosis, representing the unconscious as an external force embodied in an evil character. At the same time, in certain films ‒ notably in Fritz Lang’s M (1931) and Fury (1936) ‒ psychoanalytic ideas and concepts were beginning to inform the film’s narrative structure. A large part of M is devoted to comparing the methods of investigation employed by the police and the criminal underworld as they try to track down and apprehend a child murderer. The film intervenes in the ongoing debates about the link between visuality and criminality, tracing ‘the breakdown of systems of investigation that are based on the tracking of visual clues (as in classic detective work) and beliefs about criminal physiognomy (as in the pervasive theories of Cesare Lombroso)’45 and the development of a new institution, a vigilant, mobilized populace. The police investigation depends on identifying and interpreting visual clues and on the assumption that the criminal’s pathology is ‘written’ on his face and outward appearance, that he conforms to pre-established ‘criminal types’.46 The investigation, then, involves not just reading the signs of pathology, but actively writing them and projecting them onto the criminal: this is dramatized in a scene in which we see M, standing in front of the mirror, massaging his face into different grimaces, none of which can be said to

Cinema and Psychoanalysis


conform to the expert graphologist’s profile of the criminal, which we hear in an authoritative voice-over. M shows the breakdown of visible boundaries between criminal and noncriminal, normal and abnormal, and the ineffectiveness of tracking the individual body through visual evidence. On the other hand, however, Detective Lohman’s investigation of the case gradually reveals an underlying structural similarity between the madman’s irrational mind and the supposedly rational methods that are used by the Law to apprehend him. While searching M’s apartment, Lohman comes upon an empty Ariston cigarette pack in the garbage can. Suddenly, the name ‘Ariston’ sounds familiar to him. Here Lang draws a parallel between M’s irrational crime, ‘motivated’ only by a chance impulse, and Lohman’s breakthrough in the case, which also happens by chance when he hears a random word that sounds familiar. The psychoanalytic emphasis on minor, irrelevant details accounts equally for criminal pathology (madness) and its investigation (Reason, the Law). Just as M’s madness manifests itself through an instantaneous impulse, Reason apprehends the madman only thanks to a random, discarded piece of evidence left forgotten in the garbage can. The idea of the structural similarities between the rational and the irrational echoes throughout the film: the criminal order and the police order function in the same way (this is underscored through the use of parallel editing); the Law pursues and disciplines madness using the madman’s own methods; the random impulse motivating the madman’s crime finds its parallel in the random piece of evidence (the cigarette pack, M’s tune) used to capture him. Just as the random word or comment that is unconsciously uttered by a patient during a psychoanalytic session proves the key to the patient’s mental problem, in M, it is a simple tune, which does not communicate anything essential about the madman, that leads to the case being solved, but not before exposing the inadequacy of the regime of the visible in unlocking the door to the irrational and the unconscious. Fury further develops the psychoanalytic idea that the only thing that distinguishes the sane from the insane is the strength of the will to resist one’s violent impulses. In a seemingly unimportant scene, set in a barbershop, a barber offers an explanation for the motivation behind criminal acts (such as the kidnapping the police in the film are investigating). People get funny impulses, he says. If you resist them, you are sane; if you don’t, you are on your way to the nuthouse or the pen. He then confesses he has often had the impulse to cut a customer’s throat with his razor, but has always resisted the impulse. As in M, here, too, the representation of the criminal investigation has psychoanalytic overtones. Two irrelevant, minor details play a major role both in Joe’s (mistaken) conviction and in his eventual


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exoneration: the peanuts found in Joe’s pocket when he is apprehended (a clue the police are already looking for) and Joe’s misspelling of the word ‘memento’, which reveals to Kate that he is alive. However, the similarities with M stop here. In contrast to M, Fury does not offer a critique of the mob mentality but an apology for it. The barber’s words anticipate Katherine’s later speech, in which she defends the mob’s actions (lynching an innocent man) as unpremeditated; that is, as simply impulsive (an itch that has to be scratched, as the barber says). Indeed, by the end of the film the innocent man of reason, Joe, switches places with the madmen who lynched him: the more doggedly he pursues his plan of revenge, the more insane he begins to appear in comparison to the vulnerable men now on trial for his (apparent) murder. While M put the most eloquent critique of the mob mentality in the mouth of the madman, presenting him as a rational man demanding the fair trial his supposedly normal pursuers refuse to grant him, Fury transforms a normal, rational man, Joe, into a madman obsessed with personal revenge, and the mob into helpless victims that are not to be held accountable for a crime they did not commit (since Joe survives the lynching). During the 1910s and 1920s, f ilm emerged as an ideal medium for representing madness inasmuch as film techniques, such as mattes, superimpositions, and parallel editing, functioned as technical equivalents for the symptoms of various psychological disorders, from hallucinations and delusions to split personality. By the 1930s, psychoanalytic ideas had trickled down into the narrative structure of films, especially in the case of crime (and later noir) films, foregrounding the random or discarded detail (an empty cigarette pack, a children’s tune, a handful of peanuts, a misspelled word) ‒ the narrative equivalent of the ‘funny impulse’ ‒ as essential to narrative resolution. Here the Aristotelian principles of ‘revelation’ and ‘recognition’ found their psychoanalytic equivalent: just as in psychoanalysis, any random comment or involuntary memory can have a secret meaning or reveal a past trauma, in the crime film, any minor detail can hold the key to the crime. That both Joe’s indictment and his eventual liberation are made possible by a minor, accidental detail of apparently no narrative significance ‒ the peanuts in the first case and his misspelling of ‘memento’ in the second ‒ challenges the distinction between the impulsive and the rational, between crime and the Law. The most rational man is capable, at any moment, of acting like a madman, just as the most insane man is capable of the most eloquent and rational explanation of his own insanity, as we see in the final scene in M. Although hinting at the socially constructed nature of madness, 1920s and 1930s films still retained a profound sense of ambiguity: The Cabinet of

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Dr. Caligari’s narrative frame made it impossible to establish conclusively the protagonist’s sanity or insanity (and therefore his credibility), while The Hands of Orlac’s paradoxical ending retrospectively established Orlac as sane and innocent, while failing to explain his earlier insane and criminal behavior. By the 1940s, however, this ambiguity had disappeared: films like Bedlam (1946) and The Ghost Ship (1943), both exploring the relationship between authority and insanity, and the irrationality at the core of Reason, and both directed by Mark Robson and produced by Val Lewton, head of the RKO horror unit, emphasized the degree to which both sanity and insanity are constructed through social consensus. The action in Bedlam takes place in 1761, in St. Mary’s of Bethlehem, the lunatic asylum known infamously as ‘Bedlam’, a place where the insane ‒ as well as inconvenient or embarrassing relatives ‒ are sent. The film tells the story of Nell, an actress who deserts her nobleman patron because he is blind to the sadistic treatment of Bedlam’s inmates. Fearful that she might expose the truth about the horrendous treatment of the insane at Bedlam to John Wilkes, the great English liberal of the times, Bedlam’s chief warden, Master George Sims, arranges for her to be locked up in the asylum under the pretext that she is insane. With the help of a young Quaker she brings kindness to her fellow-inmates, until justice triumphs and Bedlam is reformed. The film features two separate trials, which are purposefully juxtaposed: Nell’s fake trial, during which Master George Sims convinces the judge that the sane Nell is insane, and the Bedlam inmates’ mock trial of the clearly insane Master Sims, at the end of which he is declared sane. 47 Like Bedlam, The Ghost Ship (1943) offers a critique of the irrationality of Reason by focusing on an authoritarian protagonist occupying a position of authority. The protagonist, Tom Merriam, joins the ship Altair as third officer under Captain Stone. The Caligari-like Stone uses his crew as guinea pigs in his mental experiments, the purpose of which is to instill in them a fear of authority. After several of the crew die under mysterious circumstances, Merriam begins to suspect that Stone might be a psychopath with megalomaniac tendencies. In the end, Merriam manages to convince the rest of the crew, who believe he is mad, that the real madman is Stone. 48 In the late 1930s and early 1940s, several cheap and popular introductions to psychoanalysis ‒ such as Interpreting Your Dreams, a booklet sold by the Los Angeles Times ‒ were published in America. Mass-market publications like these demonstrated the extent to which psychoanalysis ‒ diluted into pop psychology ‒ had penetrated popular culture. After 1939, numerous Hollywood producers’ names turned up on the subscriber list of The Psychological Review. However, it was World War II that played a central role in


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securing the authority of psychoanalysis, which proved especially useful in the treatment of shell-shocked soldiers.49 In the post-war period, Americans’ experience with battle fatigue and post-traumatic stress disorder made them more responsive to psychoanalytically inclined movies, including film noir. Psychoanalysis found fertile ground in noir, a genre defined by its interest in deception, obfuscation, knowledge and skepticism, false appearances and disguises, impersonation and double identity, spies and double agents. Noir films were populated with psychiatrists (Strange Illusion (1945), Nightmare Alley (1949), I, the Jury (1953), The Dark Past (1948), Shadow on the Wall (1950), Hollow Triumph (1948)), featured various psychiatric treatments, from hypnosis, through narcosynthesis, to the talking cure (Possessed (1947), Behind Locked Doors (1948), The Snake Pit (1948), Nightmare (1956)), explored a variety of psychological conditions ‒ from schizophrenia (Possessed, 1947), through paranoia (Ministry of Fear, 1944) to the Oedipus complex (White Heat, 1949) ‒ and often dealt with memory loss, whether experienced by returning war veterans or by civilians (Man in the Dark (1953), Street of Chance (1942), Crack-Up (1946), High Wall (1947), Somewhere in the Night (1946)). The experience of amnesia, in particular, ‘encapsulate[d] the ultimate experience of alienation in noir: having a phantom “other” self that has lived (and perhaps killed) under one’s own identity, but without one’s own consciousness.’50 One subcategory of noir, ‘the gaslight noir’, focused on stories in which a character tries to convince another character that he or she is going insane (Gaslight (1945), The Second Woman (1951), Dark Waters (1944), My Name is Julia Ross (1945), Shock (1946), Sleep My Love (1948)).51 The influence of French Poetic Realism, German Expressionism, post-war disillusionment, and the hard-boiled literary tradition on film noir has been widely discussed. The Weimar ‘street film’ and its character types ‒ psychopathic males, sexual murderers, and prostitutes ‒ as well as the fact that many noir directors were of German, Austrian or other European descent, were formative for the genre.52 More importantly, many noir films are informed by ‘the central and peculiarly modern conceit of being unable to account for one’s own actions,’ which Wheeler Winston Dixon reads as indicative of the increasing popularity of psychoanalysis in the post-war period.53 Taking up again the problem of agency and the motif of the double/ the impostor, both central to 1920s films, noir films like Laura (1944), So Dark the Night (1946), Fear in the Night (1947), Deadline at Dawn (1946), Street of Chance (1942), The Chase (1946), Whirlpool (1949) and Behind Locked Doors (1948) explored themes of mistaken culpability and

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self-deception; this time, however, the exploration of these motifs was more explicitly psychoanalytically inflected. In Laura (Otto Preminger, 1944), McPherson, the pocket-baseballgame-playing detective, who falls in love with the portrait of the woman whose murder he is investigating, appears to follow standard investigation procedures. However, after spending increasingly longer periods of time in the dead woman’s apartment, going through her letters, diary, clothes, inhaling her perfume and falling asleep under her big portrait, his detective ‘methods’ begin to resemble too closely those of a jealous lover. Toward the end of the film he pretends to arrest Laura and takes her into headquarters for questioning without even booking her, using his authority to interrogate her about her feelings for the other two lovers competing for her attention. The story revives the 1920s interest in the double (Laura, it turns out, was not killed: one of the models working for her, a girl resembling Laura in outward appearance, was killed by mistake) and the confusion between reality and illusion (McPherson falls asleep in Laura’s apartment and is rudely awaken by the sudden entrance of Laura, who is very much alive, but since we have seen him fall asleep, drunk, in her armchair, there is no guarantee that what we see after he supposedly wakes up is really happening, rather than a dream/hallucination). Most importantly, Laura ‒ and the noir genre in general ‒ reworks the 1920s motif of physically unstable, mutually exchangeable bodies (or body parts) in gnoseological terms. When Laura suddenly turns up, alive, her reappearance is not the ‘result’ of replacing parts of one person with parts of another person (The Hands of Orlac), or the result of one person splitting into two (Jekyll and Hyde) but the result of an uneven distribution of narrative knowledge. In noir, the madness of physically unstable bodies and minds explored in 1920s films gives way to the delirium of narrative organization exemplified by the typical noir narrative, punctuated by gaps, hallucinations, dreams and blasts from the past and structured around the interpretation of dubious motives and secret desires. The attribution of agency, guilt and responsibility in noir depends on how much characters know about what is going on, how much we, the audience, know, and where these two types of knowledge intersect. By the 1940s, psychoanalysis had made it clear that the physical processes explored in 1920s films have their psychic equivalents: for example, the simple ‘brain-switching’ of 1920s horror films was now reworked in terms of the psychoanalytic concept of screen memory (a memory that screens out another, more disturbing memory), while multiple personality, previously treated metaphorically (e.g., Mabuse’s disguises), was now presented as an internal psychological split that is not


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visually inscribed (as it was in Jekyll and Hyde). While 1920s films were concerned with bodily transformations, taking advantage of the power of the film medium to represent these in a realistic manner, noir films were more interested in exploring the mind’s ‒ rather than the body’s ‒ instability. Questions of agency and moral responsibility, which the 1920s films treated in a rather mechanistic way ‒ determining agency and responsibility depended on identifying the ‘proper’ owner of the hands that committed a murder (Orlac, Jekyll) ‒ were shifted into the psychic realm, foregrounding the problem of motivation. Sanity and insanity were no longer visually inscribed, but were now dependent on the mind’s access/knowledge (or lack of access/knowledge) to itself; that is to say, on the dynamic relationship between consciousness and the unconscious. The retrospective narration in many noir f ilms ‒ D.O.A. (Rudolph Maté, 1950) is a perfect example ‒ is symptomatic of the popularization of psychoanalysis in the 1940s, specifically of the idea that the past defines (or dooms) the present. Although some noir films do feature a hidden or forgotten traumatic event, the fact that retrospective narration is used even in films that do not include a traumatic past as part of the story, suggests that the function of this type of narration is different. Retrospective narration, in noir, is not so much aimed at recovering a past experience or memory; rather, its principal function is to foreground the act of telling as such ‒ not as a means of remembering or recalling the past, but as a means of accounting for or explaining the present. The assumption behind this type of narration is that things make sense only in the act of narrating them. In this sense, retrospective narration, especially when it is accomplished through voice-over, functions as the filmic equivalent of the talking cure. The popularization of psychoanalysis in America in the 1940s and 1950s shaped film noir narratively and stylistically. Filmmakers explored the fragmentation of the psyche and, by extension, of the film narrative, which became increasingly structured like a dream through techniques of condensation, displacement and elaboration, all essential to dream analysis. The typical noir demands that the protagonist and the viewer continue sifting the evidence, peeling off layer after layer of false or misleading information, with no stable point of reference in view. Ministry of Fear (1944) is a case in point. Similar to Lang’s other films, Ministry of Fear is structured like a dream, that is, through visual and verbal motifs, and through the rhyming and echoing of scenes and sections of the film. The screenwriter streamlined the novel considerably in the process of adapting it to the screen, eliminating the specifics of the Nazi plot and the importance of specific Nazi characters, as well as getting rid of the protagonist’s amnesia. As a

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result the film works mainly by sustaining a disconcerting mood of lurking danger, suggesting paranoia as the only adequate response to it. Having introduced the protagonist, a former mental asylum patient, in the very first scene, the story never quite manages to reassert his sanity and reliability as a narrator. Even when we learn, later on, that he was institutionalized for the mercy killing of his sick wife, in the absence of specific details related to the Nazi plot we can never quite trust him. Indeed, his paranoid belief that he is a victim of Nazi persecution can be seen as a manifestation of his mental instability, resulting from a strong guilt complex over killing his wife. Lang’s inclusion of Forrester’s character ‒ a psychiatrist, author of a book called The Psychoanalysis of Nazism, possibly a reference to Kracauer’s study From Caligari to Hitler ‒ suggests the extent to which psychoanalysis had infiltrated popular discourse. Although Kracauer’s study was published in 1947, the section that includes a psychological analysis of Nazi propaganda films was released by MOMA in 1942 as a pamphlet titled Propaganda and the Nazi War Film: A Critical and Psychological Analysis of Nazi Propaganda Film, two years before the release of Ministry of Fear. Raoul Walsh’s White Heat (1949) also draws on psychoanalysis, attributing the protagonist’s sociopathic tendencies to an unresolved Oedipal complex. Afflicted with migraines and fiercely devoted to his ‘Ma,’ Cody is a volatile gang leader. When his top henchman attempts to overthrow him Cody is saved by an undercover cop, who goes on to infiltrate Cody’s gang. Ultimately betrayed by everyone, Cody blows himself up during a big payroll heist at a chemical plant. In noir films, simply apprehending the criminal is no longer enough: it is now necessary to understand the way his mind works. Thus, the police detective assumes the role of a psychiatrist, analyzing Cody’s childhood for clues that might help him understand Cody. He learns that when Cody was a child he would pretend he was suffering from strong headaches as a way of winning his family’s attention. When he grew up, these manufactured headaches became real, feeding into his megalomania. Although the film suggests that Cody’s condition might be partly hereditary ‒ his father died in a lunatic asylum ‒ the story emphasizes the role of the social environment (Cody’s broken family and his overinvestment in his mother). The Woman in the Window (Fritz Lang, 1944) goes further than White Heat by showing that not only sociopaths like Cody, but also normal people, can at any moment get entangled in a web of crime, insanity and deceit, a surreal world that seems to exist parallel to our normal, everyday world. In the opening scene, the protagonist, a college psychology professor, is lecturing on psychological theories of homicide (Freud’s name is written


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on the blackboard behind him): he explains that legal categories such as first or second-degree murder and manslaughter ‘are civilized recognitions of impulses of various degrees of culpability.’ After having one too many with his colleagues at the faculty club, where they discuss a painting of a beautiful woman they have seen in a shop window, the professor falls asleep in his chair only to be woken up by the very same woman he saw in the painting. She invites him to her apartment, but when her jealous boyfriend drops by unexpectedly and attacks the professor, the professor kills him in self-defense. The murder functions as an ‘illustration’ of the faculty club conversation about the origin of unpremeditated crime in ‘a casual impulse, an idle flirtation, some forgotten natural tendency or wish.’ The professor and the woman erase all the evidence and dump the body in the woods, but as soon as the investigation starts, the professor betrays himself through slips of the tongue and involuntary actions. With the police catching up with him, he resolves to kill himself and … wakes up. Realizing the whole story was a dream, he leaves the faculty club, but not before running into some of the staff who ‘played’ central roles in his dream, another ‘illustration’ of the psychoanalytic concept of the dream as reality residue. Like The Woman in the Window, Where Danger Lives (John Farrow, 1950) explores the fine line between reason and unreason. One night at the hospital, doctor Jeff Cameron meets Margo, who is brought in after a suicide attempt. He quickly falls for her and they become romantically involved, but it turns out that Margo is married. During a confrontation Jeff accidentally kills Margo’s husband, and the two lovers flee to Mexico. After the film’s midpoint, when Jeff suffers a blow to the head, he warns Margo that although he may continue to look and talk rationally, he is not to be trusted. The irony is that, as we learn later, Margo herself has undergone psychiatric treatment, though her mental disorder is never specified (Jeff ‘diagnoses’ her as a pathological liar). There is a clear gender divide in the way the film depicts the male and the female character’s ‘insanity’: Jeff’s irrational actions and confused thoughts are given narrative justification ‒ a blow to the head ‒ whereas Margo’s ‘insanity’, which takes the form of romantic obsession, has no clear source, since we know nothing of her personal history. As a result, although she appears to have agency, her actions seem unmotivated and random. White Heat and Where Danger Lives reveal two different ways in which psychoanalysis influenced film noir: 1) on one hand, through their interest in psychopathic or sociopathic characters, whose apparently meaningless, irrational actions are shown to result from some past trauma, noir films like White Heat introduced the idea that all seemingly unmotivated,

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irrational actions ‒ not just those of criminals but also those of ‘normal’ people ‒ have deeper psychological reasons, which psychoanalysis can uncover; 2) on the other hand, by intentionally withholding the motivation for certain actions other noir films, like Where Danger Lives, foregrounded the ultimate unknowability of human motives. In this sense, psychoanalysis played an important role in the emergence of a new type of film character that is endowed with agency but deprived of motivation.54 By the time Hitchcock’s Spellbound (1945) ‒ the first film to incorporate psychoanalysis as an important part of the plot ‒ was released, many of the elements of psychoanalysis had found their way into public consciousness, including the idea of dreams as manifesting unconscious anxieties and the idea of repressed memories.55 Spellbound opens with a title card defining psychoanalysis as a method for treating the sane, not the insane: Our story deals with psychoanalysis, the method by which modern science deals with the emotional problems of the sane. The analyst seeks only to induce the patient to talk about his hidden problems, to open the locked doors of his mind. Once the complexes that have been disturbing the patient are uncovered and interpreted, the illness and confusion disappear and the devils of unreason are driven from the human soul.

Spellbound popularized the psychoanalytic concept of screen memory: in the film, Ballantyne believes he has killed Dr. Edwardes and taken his place, a memory that screens out another, far more distressing memory that is associated with it, the (false) childhood memory of killing his brother. Significantly, the story of Dr. Ballantyne’s guilt complex is first introduced in a condensed form through the story of another of Dr. Petersen’s patients, who also suffers from a guilt complex. The film’s structure thus dramatizes the psychoanalytic method (dream interpretation) that is the subject of the story. Dreams work through elaboration: the analyst identif ies an element in a dream and then analyzes how that element is elaborated in the dream. Similarly, Hitchcock identifies one element that captures the essence of the entire film and then elaborates on it in the remainder of the film. Furthermore, the premise of psychoanalysis is mirrored in the basic structure of the thriller/mystery genre: any random, apparently meaningless detail can shock Ballantyne’s mind into remembering the repressed memory, just as any trivial element of the narrative can prove the key to the story’s resolution. In short, film and psychoanalysis both function through the repression of certain material and its excavation


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and elaboration. While Hitchcock employs various cinematic techniques throughout Spellbound to suggest Ballantyne’s troubled mental life, he also devotes a separate sequence, designed by Dali, to Ballantyne’s dream. The dream’s hyper-realistic brand of surrealism contrasts with the film’s conventional structure, suggesting that the unconscious speaks its own (heavily stylized) language. In Strange Impersonation (1946) Anthony Mann also struggles with visualizing the unconscious. His solution is to ‘narrativize’ the unconscious in the form of a dream, which takes up almost the entire film and dramatizes the protagonist’s unconscious anxieties. Nora, a female research scientist, decides to test the anesthetic she has been working on ‒ which is said to induce a strong dreamlike state in the patient ‒ on herself. Under the influence of the anesthetic, she dreams that the experiment goes wrong, that her best female friend steals her fiancée from her, and that another woman, Jane, whom Nora helps after accidentally hitting her with her car, is blackmailing Nora for a large sum of money. After the failed experiment Nora is disf igured and spends a long time in the hospital. By the time she is released, her best friend has married Nora’s fiancée. Assuming Jane’s identity, after Jane’s accidental death, Nora goes away for a year and undergoes complicated plastic surgery to make her look like Jane. Eventually she returns to her lab and proceeds to win back her fiancée, who falls in love with her again, under her new assumed identity, because she reminds him of the supposedly dead Nora. However, the law catches up with Nora-Jane and she is charged with Nora’s murder, that is to say, with her own murder. When she reveals her true identity, no one believes her. At that moment she wakes up in the arms of her fiancée, realizes everything was just a bad dream, and agrees not to postpone their marriage any longer. Like Laura and Spellbound, Mann’s film explores the typical noir themes of the impostor, the double, and mistaken or false identity. Two-thirds of the film is an extended dream sequence dramatizing Nora’s unconscious fears and anxieties (about marriage, other women, beauty), but since the relationships between Nora, her female friend and her fiancée are not developed in depth in the ‘reality’ sequences, there is no way to tell whether Nora’s fears are justified. In fact, Nora tries to pass herself off as someone else twice: first as Jane and then as herself. Although the plastic surgeon warns her that while she may change her face, she cannot change who she really is, the film discredits this claim, for if Nora can function as her own impostor, then there is no such thing as a ‘primary’, ‘authentic’ self: the very possibility of successfully assuming another’s identity means that one can no longer reclaim one’s own identity

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except by passing oneself off as oneself, that is, assuming the position of impostor with respect to oneself. Spellbound purposefully blurs the distinction between analyst and patient, between sanity and insanity, by suggesting that Dr. Ballantyne might have been a patient of Dr. Edwardes. The subgenre of ‘the gaslight noir’ explores further the idea that both sanity and insanity are matters of belief. Gaslight (George Cukor, 1944) follows a newly married woman’s mental disintegration as her husband manipulates her into believing she is going insane, so that he can send her away to a mental asylum and inherit her family fortune. It is established early on that the things she believes to be imaginary are not imaginary at all: the steps she imagines she hears are the actual steps of her husband, who is searching the attic for her aunt’s jewels; the blinking of the gas lamps is not imaginary either, since her husband is actually manipulating the gaslight to confuse her. That the audience knows all this, but the protagonist does not, creates a paradoxical situation: we know that she is not mad and that her husband is ‘creating’ her auditory and visual hallucinations, but she still behaves as though what she hears is real; that is to say, we know she is not mad, but she still acts as if she were. The film thus demonstrates that one may act as if one is mad without being mad, just as one may be mad without appearing to be so. A dazed woman walks the streets of Los Angeles looking for ‘David’. After collapsing in a diner, she is taken to the psychiatric ward of a nearby hospital, where a series of drug-induced flashbacks reveal her obsession with David, an obsession that ends in murder. Possessed (Curtis Bernhardt, 1944) is structured pedagogically: it begins with a presentation of Louise’s symptoms, after which she is taken to the psychiatric ward, where a couple of psychiatrists administer drugs that make her talk; her story is occasionally interrupted so the doctors can sum up the data and refine their diagnosis. In what is probably a reference to Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents (1930), the doctors try to explain Louise’s symptoms: ‘This civilization of ours is a worse disease than heart trouble or tuberculosis. Frustrated, like the rest of them. A problem, probably simple, but she couldn’t cope with it.’ They bandy about several diagnoses, not bothering to distinguish between them: Louise exhibits the classic symptoms of borderline personality with a persecution syndrome, but she is also said to suffer from schizoid detachment, flat affect, a split personality, and full blown schizophrenia. Similar to Spellbound and The Woman in the Window, here, too, an element of the story symbolically condenses the mental problem that will be elaborated in the rest of the film. In Spellbound this is done explicitly with a dream sequence, which works symbolically not only in the sense that


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every element within the dream is a condensed symbolic element requiring interpretation (to make the dream internally coherent), but also in the sense that the sequence condenses the whole story, which is simply its extended temporal elaboration. There is no separate dream sequence in Possessed (though we should note the similarity in title with Spellbound, both titles referencing the older discourse of hypnosis and suggestion); however, the subplot of Mrs. Graham’s morbid jealousy of her husband David presents, in a condensed and displaced form, the conflict that will be elaborated in the rest of the film (Louise’s obsession with David). The entire film is thus structured like a dream, whose meaning is contained, in a condensed form, within one single element of the dream, which the remainder of the film/dream elaborates. This structure accounts for one of the noted characteristics of film noir: its overwhelming sense of inevitability and doom. Noir characters often find themselves in the position occupied by other characters, or in a position from which they thought they had escaped, but in which they are eventually trapped again. While in 1920s films one character might ‘repeat’ or ‘double’ another in the more literal sense of the word (e.g. Jekyll and Hyde), in noir, doubling becomes a structural element of the film narrative: one element of the narrative is repeated or echoed by another, creating a sense of claustrophobia and inevitability. Thus, from the very beginning, Louise is set up to repeat Mrs. Graham’s paranoia and, possibly, her tragic fate. Possessed is invested in removing the stigma associated with madness: if a man breaks his leg, Louise’s doctor says, he immediately looks for a doctor, but if someone is having mental problems, people ostracize him instead of looking for psychiatric help. When Louise mentions the word ‘insanity’, her doctor tells her this is not a word he likes to use: she is not mad; she simply has a problem, and problems are not insoluble. The contradictory explanations of Louise’s ‘condition’ point to an underlying conflict between medical and social theories of madness that remains unresolved. At the end of the film, Louise’s doctor, who diagnoses her with schizophrenia, explains schizophrenia in terms of demonic possession: in the Biblical sense of the word, Louise’s mind is ‘possessed’ by demons, which can be chased away by psychiatrists, the modern-day exorcists. Then he offers a medical explanation, defining schizophrenia as the result of brain lesions: people act according to long established patterns of behavior, but one day the ‘wires gets crossed,’ the brain gets mixed up, receiving and sending out mixed messages, and these neurological or behavioral changes in the patient mark the onset of mental illness. However, right after that, he explains that Louise’s first delusion ‒ her belief that she helped Mrs. Graham

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to kill herself ‒ was rooted in ‘great emotional stress’ (i.e., her condition was mental), the behavioral symptoms developing only later. Although Possessed acknowledges the medical nature of Louise’s condition ‒ she is delusional and hears voices ‒ it blurs the distinction between personality disorder and obsessive romantic love, suggesting that anyone in Louise’s state of mind, who has been spurned by a lover, can experience this kind of personal disintegration. Gun Crazy (Joseph H. Lewis, 1950) also depicts madness as just a more intense version of amour fou. As mentioned earlier, among noir’s significant achievements, which betray the influence of psychoanalysis, is the genre’s problematization of agency and motivation. Gun Crazy divorces actions from the subjects performing them, thereby showing that morally good and sane individuals are capable of immoral and insane actions. This new understanding of human psychology, informed by the existentialist idea that existence (actions) precedes essence (self), implies that there are no ‘sane’ and ‘insane’ people, only ‘sane’ and ‘insane’ actions. The film opens with a legal exposition of Barton’s ‘psychological disorder,’ which has led him to break into a shop and steal a gun, only to exonerate him immediately by divorcing his attraction to guns from a pathological desire to kill and defending his obsession on psychoanalytic grounds (guns make him feel important). The film displaces the real reason for asocial behavior ‒ such as shooting guns ‒ into the ‘safer’, unconscious realm, and proceeds to contrast Barton’s innocence and moral sense with Annie’s morbid fascination with killing. However, even Annie’s seemingly ‘sociopathic personality’ is given a psychoanalytic explanation: she kills not for the sake of killing, but as a way of dealing with her own fears; murder is, in her case, a defense mechanism. By displacing the ‘real’ reason for what appears to be pathological behavior onto unconscious desires and anxieties, psychoanalytically inflected noir films complicated the issue of assigning guilt and responsibility, suggesting that even if a certain type of behavior might appear ‘insane’, the real, unconscious, reasons for it might be comprehensible (as in Annie’s case). By the 1950s, psychoanalysis had been successfully brought into the medical fold. Women’s magazines published articles with titles like ‘Should You be Psychoanalyzed?’ (Mademoiselle, 1953) and ‘How I Got Caught in My Husband’s Analysis’ (Good Housekeeping, 1957), spreading the message that psychoanalysis is simply a part of one’s mental health routine.56 However, even as ordinary people embraced psychoanalysis, the field was beginning to splinter. By the mid-1950s, psychoanalysis in America was divided into two groups, the Freudians and the neo-Freudians. Other psychological methods, such as Carl Rogers’ client-centered therapy and L. Ron Hubbard’s dianetics,


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were competing with psychoanalysis. Franz Alexander, working at Mount Sinai Hospital in Beverly Hills, claimed the time needed for psychoanalytic treatment could be cut in half by showing patients popular Hollywood films depicting their inner conflicts.57 The biggest challenge to psychoanalysis, however, was the introduction of new drugs ‒ such as promazine, chlorpromazine, Thorazine, and LSD ‒ to treat neuroses and psychoses, which radically decreased the period of institutionalization of psychotic patients. During this period, Hollywood films began exploring psychoanalytic treatment and the conditions in mental hospitals in increasingly realistic ways; however, their ultimate goal was the social re-adjustment of those suffering from nervous or mental disorders.58 In Hollywood’s popularization of Freud, the unconscious became ‘more agreeable’ and ‘educable’ and the emphasis shifted to the social and family environment.59 Neuroses came to be seen as preventing the successful fulfillment of a social role. The rise of the female madness film ‒ The Three Faces of Eve (1957), Suddenly Last Summer (1959), Lilith (1964), On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970), and Sybil (1976) ‒ coincided with psychotherapy’s peak in popularity and with the determination to return women to a domestic role.60 When Eve, a young married woman and mother, is first brought to Dr. Luther, she confesses she is afraid she is losing her mind: she hears voices and she is under the illusion her husband is trying to take her daughter away from her under the pretext that she is insane. The doctor explains that it takes a lot more than spells of amnesia and hearing voices to prove that one is going insane. Indeed, he reassures Eve that her awareness that she is hearing voices and that they might be a symptom of an illness, is enough to demonstrate her sanity; if she were ‘really’ insane she would believe hearing voices to be normal or even a privilege. After bringing in an external witness to certify that Eve is not ‘faking it’, the doctor diagnoses her with multiple personality, a condition he hastens to distinguish from ‘real madness’ (psychosis). Although The Three Faces of Eve (Nunnally Johnson, 1957) underscores the role the social environment plays both in Eve’s dissociation of personality and in its cure, Eve’s cure ultimately depends on her recollection of a repressed childhood memory that has nothing to do with the pressures on the adult Eve to conform to traditional social and gender norms. When Eve reports that the voice she hears is telling her to leave her husband and daughter, or when she claims not to have a husband or daughter, the doctor dismisses the obvious significance of her statements and instead wishes there were ‘some traumatic childhood experience’ to help him diagnose her. However, even as he is trying to recover the ‘first cause’, the repressed memory that supposedly caused Eve’s disintegration (when

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Eve was a little girl her mother forced her to kiss her dead grandmother), Dr. Luther formulates Eve’s course of treatment as a matter of choice between different social roles: ‘Which one will it be: the defeated wife, the rollicking, irresponsible girl, or the sophisticated, pleasant Jane who does not remember the past? What did nature intend this woman to be?’ As the doctor’s sessions with Eve make it clear, however, Eve’s condition and her treatment revolve around someone else’s choice, not hers. Even Eve Black, the defiant part of Eve’s personality that challenges the gender roles to which Eve White conforms, does not ‘appear on the scene’ on her own, but is always ‘called up’ by the male figure of authority (the doctor) who enjoys ‘switching’ between Eve’s three personalities as though they were TV channels. What the treatment ultimately accomplishes is not an integration of Eve’s different personalities but the creation of a new personality, Jane, who is merely a more sophisticated version of Eve White (but still a wife and a mother). The film tries to disguise the similarity between Jane and Eve White by emphasizing the importance of memory in the construction of identity: Jane ‒ the new, readjusted Eve White ‒ ‘triumphantly’ reclaims her identity by recovering a traumatic childhood memory. Ultimately, despite the apparent interest in the role of the social environment in the origin, development and treatment of mental disorder, the film displaces the real issue at hand ‒ women’s difficulty in adjusting to social and gender roles after the war ‒ onto the ‘safer’ issue of repression.61 While female madness films revealed a strong ‘readjustment impulse’ at work, male madness films exposed the degree to which the definition of ‘madness’ depends on the laws of the particular discourse within which it is located. In The Caine Mutiny (Edward Dmytryk, 1954), made soon after the end of the Korean War, a US Naval captain shows signs of mental instability, jeopardizing the ship. The first officer relieves the captain of command and faces court martial for mutiny. At first, the captain appears as sane as the rest of his crew, if only a little eccentric and somewhat rigid in his love of discipline; gradually, and thanks to Bogart’s nuanced performance, his mental instability manifests itself through subtle inflections in bodily posture, gestures and speech patterns. The intellectual, the writer on the ship’s crew, is the first to ‘diagnose’ the captain as suffering from acute paranoia: ‘Look at the man. He is a walking Freudian delight: his fixation on the steel balls, his chattering of second-hand slogans and phrases, his migraines.’ ‘Everybody is a screwball in some way. That doesn’t mean they are crazy,’ replies the executive officer; however, he starts keeping a medical log of the captain’s behavior. The crew’s suspicions are confirmed when the captain blows a trivial situation out of proportion (he initiates a criminal


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investigation of a missing plate of strawberries). At the trial, the prosecution debunks the traditional image of the raving lunatic, presenting the captain as a rational man who simply puts a bit more emphasis on discipline: his alleged ‘madness’ is just a personal idiosyncrasy. During his testimony the expert psychiatrist explains that sane people can act in ways that look insane without actually being insane. He goes on to argue that the captain has normal adult problems, which he handles well: an inferiority complex arising from a problematic childhood and further aggravated by some adult experiences (strain in combat), rigidity of personality, unreasonable suspicion, a mania for perfection and a neurotic certainty that he is always right. The defense is quick to point out that there is one type of mental illness defined exactly by these symptoms: paranoid personality disorder. The film suggests that certain kinds of behavior, when grouped together, can be understood as ‘symptoms,’ which, in turn, demands (the construction of) a mental condition to ‘account’ for them. Ultimately, the defense dismisses the psychiatrist’s expert medical opinion on account of his lack of navy experience. Medical diagnosis is thus relative to the laws of discourse within which a given condition is diagnosed: according to medical laws, the captain is suffering from paranoid personality disorder, but according to navy law, he is sane. Significantly, the captain’s madness manifests itself through his failure to perform his naval duties: presumably it would have otherwise remained unnoticed and undiagnosed. This further underscores the extent to which criteria for diagnosing madness are determined by the specific laws governing a particular discourse (medical, legal, or military).62 Up until the 1960s psychiatrists in the movies were the authoritative voices of reason, adjustment, and well-being. With the rise of countercultural attitudes after the Vietnam War, anti-authoritarian and antipsychiatry sentiments soared. The most dramatic expression of psychiatry as a mechanism for enforcing conformity was the cinematic depiction of electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) in films such as Shock Corridor (1963), Shock Treatment (1964), A Woman Under the Influence (1974), and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975).63 These films shifted public and professional attitudes toward ECT and involuntary institutionalization. Shock Corridor came out in 1963, two years after the publication of Erving Goffman’s Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates (1961). Goffman’s book drew attention to the perilous effects of institutionalization on mental patients and initiated a debate around the criminalization of the mentally ill.64 Goffman argued that madness is a social construct whose function is to maintain social order and control politically dangerous people. Similar ideas were advocated by rebellious

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psychiatrists like Thomas Szasz and R.D. Laing, the latter proclaiming Kingsley Hall in London as an anti-institution that affords psychotic patients the opportunity to experience psychosis without intervention and to ‘work through’ their hallucinations and delusions. Laing’s The Divided Self (1965) sought to revalue schizophrenic experience and modes of communication as intelligible. Along similar lines, Szasz maintained that ‘mental illness is not something a person has, but something he does or is’: madness is just a different way of structuring experience rather than a breakdown of the ability to structure experience.65 Suddenly, Last Summer (Joseph Mankiewicz, 1959) embodies the spirit of the anti-psychiatry movement, taking a strong stand against ECT: the very character one might expect to be a strong advocate for ECT ‒ the neurosurgeon assigned to Catherine’s case ‒ rejects it, arguing that it should be used only in the most hopeless cases, and even then it is not a recommended treatment, because it leaves the patient mentally handicapped. When Dr. Cukrowicz is told that his new patient, Catherine, suffers from dementia praecox, he dismisses the diagnosis as ‘a meaningless phrase’ and proposes to treat her with the talking cure. The fact that Catherine’s sessions with the neurosurgeon-turned-analyst take place in an informal setting, in the library rather than a doctor’s office (the implication being that the institutional context is an obstacle to recall), that she is granted the freedom to wear regular clothes, rather than a patient’s robe, that she even mocks the talking cure occasionally, all paint a very different picture of the power dynamics between patient and doctor (a doctor who, in this case, is not even qualified to practice the talking cure on account of his lack of psychoanalytic training).66 Like The Three Faces of Eve, this film focuses exclusively on Catherine’s recovery of the repressed memory of her cousin’s death. In the ‘revelation scene’ the doctor administers Catherine with a ‘truth serum’, and as the drug starts to work, the camera moves in for a close-up of her face. She starts recalling the repressed memory, which is now for the first time visualized in a series of silent images, accompanied by Catherine’s voice, as she recalls the events unfolding on the screen. As we move closer to the climax, the camera moves in closer and closer, until it frames Catherine’s mouth and we only hear her words. Here language is presented as a key to the unconscious: it is only through the act of talking ‒ rather than remembering in images ‒ that the patient, and the analyst, can access the unconscious.67 Lilith (Robert Rossen, 1964) is equally exemplary of the anti-psychiatry movement’s romanticization of madness through its association with superior intellectual and artistic abilities.68 There are no disturbing images of ‘raving lunatics’ thrown together in ‘a snake pit’; instead, the film is set in a


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private sanatorium for affluent patients, a beautiful estate surrounded by luscious meadows, beautiful rivers, and green woods. The sanatorium’s head psychiatrist describes his patients as artists in their own right, who see the world with a ‘finer instrument’. Indeed, when the protagonist, Vincent, falls in love with Lilith, a patient diagnosed with schizophrenia, he is seduced as much by the woman as by her fascinating mental condition, which he reads as evidence of a superior intellect. Like Catherine in Suddenly, Last Summer, Lilith does not think of herself as ‘sick’: she mocks her psychiatric diagnosis, cleverly using it as a justification for playing games with the men who become enthralled with her. Throughout the film, Lilith is associated with images of nature: she is often framed against woods, meadows, a waterfall, a river, rain, sunlight, and so forth. Her psychosis is thus depicted as a force of nature that is also aesthetically pleasing; it is difficult to label her as ‘deranged’, given that she is made to embody the balance and beauty of nature. As Vincent is drawn further and further into Lilith’s psychotic world, the line between patient and nurse, unreason and reason, becomes blurred, and the story sketches out the possibility of a shared psychosis, a new take on the idea of amour fou. The decline in psychiatric authority is reflected in the film’s emphasis on countertransference: the head reminds Vincent that in Shakespeare’s time madness was known as ‘rapture’ or ‘ecstasy’, and that those who studied the nature of rapture ‒ that is, analysts ‒ often surrendered to it themselves. Not only does the film romanticize madness, but it also presents it as a form of resistance (‘dropping out’): in one scene the patients interrupt a group therapy session to reject the suggestion that they ought to ‘get back to reality’. ‘Why, what’s so great about reality?!’ they ask provocatively. In Shock Corridor (Samuel Fuller, 1963), perhaps the most forceful expression of the anti-psychiatry movement, Johnny, a newspaper reporter, gets himself admitted to a psychiatric hospital to investigate the murder of a patient, hoping that his report will get him the Pulitzer Prize for journalism.69 His girlfriend, Cathy, begs him to ‘give up this psychoanalytical binge’: ‘Mark Twain didn’t psychoanalyze Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer. Dickens did not put Oliver Twist on the couch because he was hungry. Good copy comes out of people, Johnny, not out of a lot of explanatory medical terms. Hamlet was made for Freud, not you!’ Once admitted to the hospital, Johnny’s fictional symptoms become real: convinced that Cathy is his sister, he develops the psycho-sexual conflict he was earlier rehearsing and suffers acute schizophrenic episodes accompanied by hallucinations until he finally succumbs to catatonic schizophrenia. The film uses the typical noir device of the voice-over to problematize the distinction between sanity and

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insanity. In the opening scene, Johnny is coached by a trained psychoanalyst and by his own chief editor on how to ‘act insane’. We hear his thoughts in voice-over as he explains that for this ‘mission’, his editor and the doctor are drawing on their previous uses of psychoanalysis in psychological warfare. Once in the hospital Johnny begins having nightmares: his voice-over in these scenes, in which he is (still) supposed to be sane, is indistinguishable from the voices he begins to hear (also conveyed through voice-over) as he goes insane, just as his ‘sane dreams’ in the early scenes are visually indistinguishable from his later ‘insane dreams’. His hallucinations get worse after he undergoes shock treatment. When the doctors ask him leading questions meant to test his sanity, we hear, in voice-over, Johnny thinking to himself that he should be careful not to expose himself. At this point, however, it is no longer clear whether he is afraid of exposing himself as a sane man pretending to be insane, or as an insane man pretending to be sane. If one can fake madness, the film suggests, one can fake sanity as well. The use of voice-over throughout the film, both in the sane and insane scenes, denies a stable reference point from which one might distinguish sanity from insanity: if the schizophrenic hearing voices is indistinguishable from the sane man who thinks to himself, then thinking to oneself is inherently schizophrenic.70 The peculiar nature of filmic illusion accounts for the continued prominence of the argument that cinema is, in a certain sense, ‘predisposed’ to madness. In his contribution to the volume La raison en feu, ou la fascination du cinema pour la folie [Reason on Fire, or Cinema’s Fascination with Madness] Jean-Claude Polack points out that cinema’s essential techniques (displacement of space and time) are symptomatic of a range of mental illnesses: Le délire et les stratégies du montage larguent aisément les amarres de l’espace et les coordonnées chronologiques du récit. La folie de Shining est complice des puissances du cinéma. Les effets, procédés, truquages, raccourcis, jongleries du décor et passés-passe du temps ne sont pas étrangers aux processualites muettes de la psychose ni aux programmes technologiques d’une schizophrénie ‘mondialiste’. Le cinéma (comme le rêve, comme le délire) peut explorer les lieux qui-à distance des personnes, des personnages et de leur dialectiquecombinent les investissements sociaux du désir avec les machinismes élémentaires de la vie pulsionnelle. (27)71

Contemporary f ilm theory continues to view madness as ‘inherent in cinema’ or, alternatively, to view madness as ‘inherently cinematic’. In


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Madness and Cinema: Psychoanalysis, Spectatorship and Culture, Patrick Fuery employs the ‘trope’ of madness to discuss the relationship between spectator and meaning: In order to consider this idea of meaning and knowledge I chose to look at its other, madness. The strategy behind this was that any attempt to examine meaning always gets caught up in the very processes it is attempting to engage in. Madness is meaning and knowledge outside of themselves. Madness, then, is not a lack or absence of meaning, rather it is another version of meaning that for some reason or other has been placed in a special category of otherness. (Preface xi-xii)

Following Foucault, Fuery distinguishes his approach to madness from those that explore the representation of madness in various cultural contexts; such studies, he argues, ‘provide an immediately recognizable discourse of madness, and so become a readable version of the unrepresentable’ (23). Since madness is unrepresentable, ‘everything has the possibility of madness. The spaces of madness are impossible to specify and so seem to be everywhere’ (8). Fuery posits every act of reading as inherently mad insofar as it challenges dominant regimes of knowledge. Films like Un chien andalou (Bunuel/Dali 1929) or Rosemary’s Baby (Polanski 1968) may treat madness as a theme but ‘cannot be described as actual madness,’ because they represent madness ‘through paradigms that have been articulated outside of madness’ (24). On the contrary, films that do not seem to be about madness can be read as ‘actually mad’: for example, The Searchers (Ford 1956) ‘can be read as madness in part because it is a disturbance to the cultural icon of John Wayne’ (25). Starting from Freud’s notion of the unconscious as resisting meaning and interpretation, Fuery equates the unconscious with madness and resistance72 and, vice versa, calls any act of resistance ‘mad’. Having located madness in the spectator’s resistance to meaning, he goes on to distinguish between several types of resistances (to interpretation from the narrative field of the film, to reading the narrative itself, to pleasure, to closure and finitude) and between several types of ‘spectatorial madness’ (the neurotic spectator, the psychotic spectator, and the hysteric spectator).73 The problem with Fuery’s approach is that, in his attempt to demonstrate that madness is still meaningful even though it exists outside the regime of representation, he invests madness with an excess of meaning: ‘If anything madness is seen as more meaningful than those signs traditionally ascribed as meaningful. … The mad act is seen not as lacking meaning, but as having

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a meaning that is obscured, or different, or contested, or simply unresolved/ unresolvable’ (27). Fuery’s overvaluation of madness as ‘more meaningful than meaning’ ‒ ‘[M]ad love is love in the extreme, obsession is a purified version of the less ordinary existence in life, paranoia becomes vision with greater clarity’ (28) ‒ ends up bringing madness back into the fold of meaning/representation, from which he claims to have liberated it. By equating madness with the capacity to resist interpretation through the seemingly endless generation of meanings, Fuery reifies madness into a mere effect of language: madness becomes just another term for unlimited semiosis; in short, madness becomes aestheticized. One of Fuery’s privileged examples of the relationship between madness and meaning is the serial killer film. Fuery points out that in all serial killer films ‒ from earlier ones like White Heat (1949) to later ones like Silence of the Lambs (1991) and Se7en (1995) ‒ the rational efforts of science prove inefficient in solving the crime without the help of emotion, which is ‘often depicted as a sort of perverse empathy’ of the investigator or detective toward the serial killer. Not only are both the insane criminal and the analyst/detective ‘positioned outside of the normalizing moment of the social and historical order’: ‘there is a persistent force that declares that all acts of madness [are to be] attached to some sense of meaning. The smallest detail, the most insignificant of acts, the slightest fluctuation of the body, become filled with absolute signification … [and] what they mean is in constant doubt (until the final revelations)’ (29-30). Fuery reads this excess ‒ and constant deferral ‒ of meaning, which implicates both the insane (criminal) and the sane (analyst-detective), as ‘madness.’ The giallo,74 as developed and perfected by Dario Argento, is probably the closest visual equivalent to Fuery’s poststructuralist approach to madness inasmuch as the giallo dramatizes the shift in the understanding of madness from a ‘theme’ or ‘subject matter’ to an ‘aesthetic strategy’ defined as ‘excess.’ While the giallo adheres to Todorov’s idea of the mystery narrative as fundamentally gnoseological ‒ the giallo is structured around two stories, the story of the crime, which is missing, and the story of the investigation, which is present ‒ the genre’s vernacular qualities blur the distinction between these two stories so that the story of the investigation is never sealed off from the story of the crime. Just as in Fuery’s account every act of meaning/interpretation that exceeds the regime of representation qualifies as ‘mad,’ for Argento madness is a matter of visual excess:75 in his gialli the concern with the aesthetics of madness outweighs that with the psychology of madness. One recurring instance of visual excess in the giallo is an ‘obsessive examination of surfaces,’76 as when the narrative


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is paused and the camera pans over isolated objects, or shows them in close-up, completely denarrativized, severed from the rest of the narrative just as the subjects of many of these shots ‒ hands, feet, heads, eyes ‒ have been severed from the body. Another instance of excess is the proliferation and randomization of points of view: the spectator is constantly disoriented by ‘the shifting “voice” of the camera, which moves back and forth between showing the scene in omniscient shots and shots clearly representing some specific viewpoint … without discernible pattern.’77 Argento’s gialli, whose archetypal setting seems to be the art gallery, revive the association to be found in 1920s films of madness with ‘the monstrous’ and with ‘art’. In many of his films, the amateur detective and/or the serial killer is either an artist (a writer, an opera singer, a painter, a jazz musician, an opera fan) or someone sensitive to art, and the clues leading to the solution of the murder case are artworks: in The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) the painting of a man attacking a woman eventually helps the amateur detective (a writer) identify the killer (who became psychopathic as a result of a traumatic event similar to the one depicted in the painting); in Tenebre (1982) the novel the amateur detective is writing provides clues to the identity of the murderer (the novelist himself); in Opera (1987) the opera director (a former horror film director) identifies the killer by changing the traditional production of the opera Macbeth; and in Deep Red (1975) the amateur detective, a jazz musician, solves the case when he remembers that what he saw at the scene of the crime was not a painting but the reflection of a painting in a mirror along with the reflection of the killer’s face, which he mistook for part of the painting. In the giallo, solving the criminal case does not require following established methods of deduction; instead, solving the case depends on solving a riddle, deciphering a quote from an old book, or correctly interpreting forgotten theories of the occult. Riddles do not require logical thinking but depend on sudden revelations and accidental discoveries: in Deep Red (1975) the protagonist solves the crime accidentally when he suddenly realizes that what he saw on the wall was not a face in a painting but the reflection of the killer’s face in a mirror across from the painting; in Inferno (1980) Mark solves the crime when he figures out the meaning of the cryptic line, ‘the key is beneath the soles of your shoes.’ Since the giallo encourages an immediate visceral response, it is not interested in a psychological analysis of the serial killer’s insanity; if Argento does inquire into the reasons for the killer’s insanity, he does so in a very cursory fashion, usually revealing the traumatic event in the killer’s past in a brief coda at the end of the film (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage ends with a brief explanation of the killer’s mental disturbance, the

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result of a severe trauma), or in a very obvious meta-fictional way (Tenebre begins with a prologue, read by the protagonist-novelist himself, explaining in advance why the novelist is a serial killer). Instead of exploring the madman’s mind, the giallo simply shows us a number of representative instances of madness before proceeding to reveal the madman’s identity. The murders occur in no particular order: they function precisely as examples in a series, mutually exchangeable, indistinguishable from one another, except perhaps from an aesthetic point of view. The representation of madness or the irrational is simply an extension of film style: the focus is on the aesthetics of murder, on the stylized, visually excessive representations of individual murders as set pieces or works of art, on the baroque camera movements, the archetypal costume worn by the killer, the infinitely inventive ways of killing, the a-chronological sequences featuring the killer fondling his weapons and preparing for his next murderous escapade.78 There is no room for exploring questions of guilt and responsibility inasmuch as criminal acts are presented in their purest form ‒ depersonalized, disembodied, divorced from any sort of agency. In the typical murder scenario the victim is carefully positioned within the frame; the camera shows us the part of the body to be mutilated, shows us the murder weapon the killer will use, and finally shows us the mutilation/ murder itself. Since the killer’s body is never seen within the frame ‒ he is reduced to a gloved hand or a murder weapon ‒ the act (mutilation or murder) seems to originate from nowhere, as if it were located outside the diegetic world of the film. The aestheticization of madness in the giallo, as evidenced by the preoccupation with excess, bodies and visuality, and the indifference to questions of agency and psychological motivation, reflects the decline of psychoanalysis in the 1960s and 1970s. As Eli Zaretsky has argued, while in the period between the 1880s and the 1920s and its aftermath, between the 1920s and the 1950s, psychoanalysis radicalized the ideals of the Enlightenment, expanding the ideal of autonomy into extra-moral ‒ personal ‒ realms, in the 1960s and 1970s, the ‘intrapsychic ‒ private, internal and idiosyncratic ‒ character [of psychoanalysis] faded in importance as it became politicized and increasingly subject to cultural manipulation. … All that had been suppressed within psychoanalysis ‒ visuality, narcissism, the body ‒ now came into prominence.’79 As we shall see in the next chapter, the visual excesses of the giallo gave way, in the 1990s and after, to a new discourse of madness as describing the very conditions of knowledge in postmodernity ‒ the complexity, unreliability, and inherent multiplicity of identity, reality, and time.

4. Multiple Personality and the Hollywood ‘Multiple’ Film Cinema and the Discourse of the Multiple Around the middle of the nineteenth century, scientists began asking themselves whether the strange phenomenon of multiple personality was ‘primarily a pathological response to the physical doubleness of the brain or the result of disordered association.’ The debate revived an old question: ‘[I]s there a co-ordinating power within each individual, formed through memory and shaping individual will, that constitutes the core of the self? Or are we nothing but a series of bodily sensations, cerebral reflexes and fragmented memories that together constitute the fiction of individuality?’1 In his essay ‘The Dream as a Revelation’ (1893), to which Freud refers in the 1909 edition of The Interpretation of Dreams, the British doctor James Sully observed that ‘psychology has of late occupied itself much with the curious phenomena of double or alternating personality.’2 Similarly, foremost among the questions that concerned Frederic Myers ‒ a founding member of the Society for Psychical Research established in 1882, known for making Janet’s work on traumatic memory and Freud’s Studies on Hysteria available in England, as well as for inventing the term ‘telepathy’ ‒ was ‘whether minds might exist outside the limits of the individual body.’3 This question prompted him to study what he called ‘multiplex personalities’, including such well-known cases as those of Louis V. and Mme. B. Like James Sully, Myers saw the human mind as ‘a palimpsest with a structure and a history,’ but he also believed that ‘the fragmented selves revealed in cases of double consciousness are aspects of a subliminal consciousness’ that ‘at some future time, and under changed conditions may unite.’4 As part of the evolving discourse of the multiple dominating the period between 1874 and1886, photography and film were instrumental in what Ian Hacking calls the ‘secularization of the soul’; that is, the transformation of the ‘soul’ ‒ under the new disguise of ‘memory’ ‒ into an object of scientific study.5 The automatism essential to photography and cinema made them perfectly suited to the new sciences of memory: they contributed not only to the accumulation of ‘depth knowledge’ (the notion that there are certain facts to be known about memory, as opposed to the practice of simple recall or ‘surface knowledge’) but also, as Stanley Cavell has argued, to the theatricalization of the cogito. In The World Viewed Cavell explores the


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way in which new technologies of reproduction, specifically cinema, have shaped our understanding of what constitutes rational thought. In the course of his argument, he analyzes the court scene in Frank Capra’s Mr. deeds Goes to town (1936), in which Mr. Deeds insists that involuntary gestures and actions (what Cavell calls ‘somatograms’) are also a form of thinking, even if they do not conform to the common idea of thinking as a purely intellectual act: And I take it that Deeds’ insight is that a reverse field of proof is available by way of the motion picture camera, so that while thinking is no longer secured by the mind’s declaration of its presence to itself, it is now to be secured by the presence of the live human body to the camera, in particular by the presence of the body’s apparently least intelligent property, its fidgetiness, its metaphysical restlessness. In Descartes the proof of thinking was that it cannot doubt itself; after Emerson the proof of thinking is that it cannot be concealed. … Am I saying that the camera is necessary to this knowledge? … Must I commit myself to saying that my existence is proved (only) each time the camera rolls my way? I ask a little license here. My idea is that the invention of the motion picture camera reveals something that has already happened to us. … We can think of what the camera reveals as a new strain either in our obliviousness to our existence or in a new mode of certainty of it. (130-131)

Once the film camera had been invented, the cogito could no longer be concealed; since it was now continuously displayed, it could no longer be doubted.6 In response to those who ‘blame’ cinema for the descent into skepticism, Cavell argues that if there is a threat to speak of here, it is not the threat of skepticism, but the opposite threat of overexposing the cogito: If the price of Descartes’ proof of his existence was a perpetual recession of the body … the price of an Emersonian proof of my existence is a perpetual visibility of the self, a theatricality in my presence to others, hence to myself. The camera is an emblem of perpetual visibility. Descartes’ self-consciousness thus takes the form of embarrassment. (131)

Cavell goes on to argue that the film camera rendered the most automatic, arbitrary and involuntary actions or movements the strongest evidence of the cogito, which was no longer capable of rationally, consciously de-

Multiple Personalit y and the Holly wood ‘Multiple’ Film


claring itself. It was this shift in the concept of ‘rational thought’ and, by extension, in the concept of ‘the self’, this new emphasis, made possible by the film camera, on automatism, inattention, involuntary or unconscious movements, involuntary memory, irrational or unconscious thoughts, that created the conditions for rethinking the self (and reality) as inherently multiple and fragmented, rather than self-transparent, essential, unchanging, and internally unified. Pursuing a line of thinking similar to Cavell’s, in Gramophone, Film, Typewriter Friedrich Kittler analyzes the contribution of the new discourse network of 1900 ‒ specifically the chronophotography of hysterical patients ‒ to the theatricalization of ‘hysteria’ (an early term for ‘multiple personality’) and to the development of psychoanalysis: Charcot, who transformed the Salpétrière from a dilapidated insane asylum into a fully equipped research lab shortly after his appointment, ordered his chief technician in 1883 to start filming. Whereupon Albert Londe, later known as the constructor of the Rolleiflex camera, anatomized (strictly following Muybridge and Marey) the ‘large hysterical arc’ with serial cameras. A young physiology assistant from Vienna visiting the Salpétrière was watching. But Dr. Freud did not make the historical connection between films of hysteria and psychoanalysis. As in the case of phonography, he clung (in the face of other media) to the verbal medium and its new decomposition into letters. (141)

While Freud saw cinema as a particular ‘form’ assumed by madness, the purpose of psychoanalytic treatment being to translate movies back into literature, ‘chopping up an internal film, in steps that are as methodical as they are discrete, until all of its images have disappeared’ (143), Kittler asserts that, in a certain sense, cinema’s recording potential made madness possible, or at least kept alive the belief in madness by providing reliable records of it. This argument is by no means new. As early as 1910 one of Albert Londe’s successors, Dr. Hans Hennes of the Provinzial-Heil-und Pflegeanstalt Bonn, in his treatise Cinematography in the Service of Neurology and Psychiatry, singled out cinema as the only proper medium for recording ‘hysterical motion malfunctions’. He observed that in all cases … it was typical that distraction from the symptoms of the disease and the suspension of external stimuli were sufficient to reduce, or almost completely eliminate, [hysterical] movements.


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By contrast, it is enough to draw attention to phenomena, or for the physician to examine the patient, even just step up to him, in order for dysfunctions to appear with greater intensity. … How often does it happen to the professor that a patient fails during lecture, that a manic suddenly changes his mood, a catatonic suddenly fails to perform his stereotypes movements. … Other patients show their interesting oddities ‘maliciously,’ only when there are no lectures. … Such occurrences, which are frequently disturbing to the clinical lecturer, are almost completely corrected by the cinematograph. The person doing the filming is in a position to wait calmly for the best possible moment to make the recording. Once the filming is done, the pictures are available for reproduction at any moment. Film is always ‘in the mood.’ There are no failures. (Hennes quoted in Kittler, 145)

Extrapolating from Hennes’ view of madness as a self-fulfilling prophecy, the result of a certain fluctuation between attention and inattention, between the presence and the absence of the film camera, Kittler goes on to argue that not only do new media technologies create new illnesses, but they are also capable of putting an end to them once they have been recorded. Kittler attributes the disappearance of the ‘great hysterical arc’, at least in part, to the availability of its record on film: once ‘the hysterical arc’ had been safely stored on film, the inhabitants of mental asylums could abandon their ‘performances’ and stop flaunting their ‘oddities’. In short, cinematography modernized psychiatry: under its influence psychiatry began to ‘produce new beings’7 (hysterics), with multiplicity becoming increasingly viewed as a construct. 8 New technologies of reproduction, and the discourse associated with them, not only confirmed the reality of multiple personality but also contributed to the evolution of a new discourse of the self as inherently multiple and reproducible. In 1885, ten years before the first film screening by the Lumière brothers, the first clinical case of a multiple, Louis Vivet, was photographed in his ten personality states.9 Two years later, the first person whose dissociative fugues were studied in detail, Albert Dad, was photographed in his three states (normal, hypnotized and during a fugue). Thus, multiplicity ‘was made visual from the very beginning, and faithfully followed new technologies. After movies had been invented, they were used to record switches.’10 Photography and film provided incontrovertible evidence of the obsoleteness of the idea of a transcendental ego: apparently, multiple selves could co-exist within the same person without the need for a central coordinating agency.

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The idea that new media technologies have the capacity to shape the way we think about madness and mental illness, even to refigure our mental functions, is not entirely new. As we have already seen, Münsterberg’s The Photoplay: A Psychological Study (1916) already anticipates this line of argument. From the perspective of Münsterberg’s ‘psychotechnology’, each psychic apparatus is also a technological one, and vice versa.11 In his analysis of the intersection of psychiatry and new media technologies, Kittler takes Münsterberg’s argument one step further by proposing that film techniques are not simply objectifications of particular mental functions (e.g. the closeup is an objectification of attention, the flashback of memory, cinematic montage of association, and so on); instead, ‘attention itself appears as the interface of an apparatus’ (163), that is, mental functions constitute the interface of media technologies. This idea is not as far-fetched at it might appear. Recent technological innovations have made mental malfunctions available to anyone interested in experiencing virtually what it is like to be a schizophrenic, for example. In 2007, pharmaceuticals manufacturers, psychologists and psychiatrists gathered at the Janssen Pharmaceutica headquarters in Titusville, New Jersey, to create a new type of virtual reality experience, Mindstorm, a 3-D virtual reality simulator which allows viewers to experience an average day in the life of a schizophrenic.12 One wonders whether as technologies for recording and representing madness continue to evolve, making it possible to visualize with increasing authenticity the experience of mentally ill people, our mental functions will adjust accordingly, thereby becoming increasingly ‘malfunctioned’ ‒ that is, ‘malfunctioned’ in new, ‘creative’ ways. We should also note the uncanny confluence between the recent cinematic epidemic of the multiple ‒ the growing number of films envisioning multiple realities, identities or temporalities that are often the result of amnesia ‒ and, on the other hand, the steadily growing experimental research on memory and amnesia, which is then publicized by the next memory blockbuster. Researchers at Harvard and McGill universities have been working on an amnesia drug that blocks or deletes bad memories. The technique seems to allow psychiatrists to disrupt the biochemical pathways that allow a memory to be recalled. In a study published in The Journal of Psychiatric Research, the drug propranolol is used along with therapy to ‘dampen’ memories of trauma victims.13 The fact that this was the premise of the 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind once again foregrounds the looping effect between cinema and scientific research.14 Along similar lines, in his book The Reality of Illusion (1996), which the author sees as continuing the legacy of Münsterberg’s film/mind analogy,


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Joseph Anderson, an ecological cognitivist, posits a correspondence between basic cognitive processes (normal cognitive skills) and particular film styles (the classical continuity style). Classical Hollywood style, characterized by transparency and accessibility, has come to occupy a dominant position simply because, argues Anderson, it conforms to the universally shared, standard mode of perception as it has evolved over 150 million years of mammalian evolution. Just as ‘the origins of the human visual system vastly predate the emergence of humans’ (Anderson 14), the origins of the classical Hollywood style predate the emergence of cinema. But if film style is capable of influencing the cognitive skills required to comprehend it, should we not also conclude that alternative film styles, such as ones that challenge the basic narrative schema by playing around with time and space, for example, have the power of reorienting or redesigning our cognitive skills? If we accept the premise of ecological cognitive film theory that our cognitive skills are continuing to evolve, it would be reasonable to expect that revisions of the narrative schemas we have been using all along for reasons of convenience or accessibility will eventually leave a mark on the cognitive skills ‘matching’ these schemas. Taken to its logical conclusion, this argument implies that changes in film style, narrative form, or genre have the potential of affecting ‒ indeed transforming ‒ our mental functions.15 More recently, Patricia Pisters has attempted to integrate Münsterberg’s ‘psychotechnology’ with neuroscientific research. In The Neuro-Image: A Deleuzian Film-Philosophy of Digital Screen Culture, Pisters points to the simultaneous appearance of The Illusionist (Neil Burger, 2006) and The Prestige (Christopher Nolan, 2006) as indicative of ‘a renewed interest in cinema’s relation to perceptual illusions through the stories of professional conjurers … [and] to a renewed theoretical interest in the luring powers of the screen and the tricks it can play with the brain’ (2). Drawing on Münsterberg’s The Photoplay: A Psychological Study ‒ a work she argues was never fully integrated into modern film theory, which, from the 1950s onward, came to be dominated by structuralism and psychoanalysis ‒ and on Deleuze’s Cinema books, Pisters argues that ‘the re-appreciation of the magical qualities of cinema and the illusionary quality of perception can be rethought interdisciplinarily by relating film theory to certain developments in neuroscience’ (2). It is not a coincidence, she observes, that, given the impact of digital technology in the twenty-first century, cinema now is returning to its beginnings, investigating its original fascination with visual perception and illusion, at the same time that new visual technologies ‒ visualizing the brain in EEG, PET, MRI, fMRI and MEG scans ‒ have become important in the neurosciences. Continuing a line of reasoning that,

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in the Introduction to this book, I traced back to Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams and Münsterberg’s The Photoplay, Pisters proposes that visual illusions occupy this central place in contemporary neuroscientific research because 1) they reveal the mechanisms of perception, and 2) in the case of certain clinical conditions, such as psychoses, which can cause visual hallucinations, they reveal ‒ better than a normal, fully functioning brain could ‒ the mechanisms of the brain. Visual illusions ‒ both the hallucinations produced by a particular type of psychopathology and the visual illusions or tricks produced, for example, by special visual effects in film ‒ reveal the mechanisms of ‘normal’ perception. Just as Freud posited psychopathology as essential to the study of general psychology, neurocinematics uses cinema ‒ specifically its power to create visual illusions ‒ to study the functioning of the brain. In short, in neurocinematics cinema occupies the same place that psychopathology occupies in the new sciences of mind at the fin de siècle.16

The De-pathologization of the Double and the Multiple Although discipline-specific histories of doubling and multiple personality ‒ Karl Miller (literature),17 Paul Coates (film and literature),18 Paul Antze and Michael Lambek (anthropology)19, and Ian Hacking (philosophy)20 ‒ attribute the emergence of the double and the multiple in public discourse to different historical, social, cultural and political factors, ultimately they all testify to the transformations these two phenomena have undergone under the influence of new technologies of reproduction, such as photography and cinema. Specifically, having left the confines of the nineteenth-century illness model, doubling and multiple personality have gradually acquired a more general, philosophical, cultural or metaphorical meaning.21 Our current fascination with the multiple is symptomatic of the persistence in the (post-)postmodern age of the Romantic fascination with ‘the Double’. Cinema inscribed itself in the phenomenology of the fin de siècle by virtue of its self-reflexiveness and its uncanny relation to reality. In ‘Decadent Spaces: Notes for a Phenomenology of the Fin de Siècle,’ Jan B. Gordon notes a shift in fin de siècle literature from the old Victorian theme of the search for origins (the importance of heritage, family, origins manifested, for instance, in the figure of the orphan in Dickens) to a new idea of personal development that conceived a person’s life as a work of art: [T]he child (orphan) as a pilgrim-historian questing for occupation is replaced by an aesthete, who renounces occupation in favor of exist-


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ence. In place of the binary set typical of romanticism ‒ some ‘self’ seeking out the ‘other’ in the exterior world ‒ they [the new writers] radically divide their very being, creating an existential hermaphroditism or better ‒ to borrow from Yeats ‒ a distinction between man and his masks. … Ironic detachment becomes the psychological corollary to the more real detachment of the orphan earlier in the century. The ‘mirror-effect’, so common in the life and art of the late 19th century, is thus a visual representation which unifies a number of divergent strains in the phenomenology of the nineties: the Dopplegänger and the divided self; the voyeurism implicit in divided self-consciousness; the highly polished surfaces of much Art Nouveau. (36)

In short, the fin de siècle was a period that formalized self-reflexiveness through acknowledging subjectivity’s inherent duality. The story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde illustrates Gordon’s point: in the book, ‘a presumably objective scientist vicariously participates in the life of his “double”. … [W]e are no longer reading the history of an event but rather The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: a “case history” wherein the genre of the Imaginary Portrait intersects a medical, criminal and literary investigation into the nature of origins’ (49). The point is that the fragmentation of the self is, in fact, scientifically necessary: the self’s multiplicity cannot be simply seen as a pathology that science must study objectively, because this ‘pathology’ of duality or multiplicity is constitutive of the scientific project: Dr. Jekyll can put into practice his scientific and detective skills only because there is ‘another’ self with respect to which he can assume a distanced, scientific attitude. Insofar as cinema offered the spectator the mirror image of reality ‒ another reality, which is, at the same time, the same reality ‒ it expressed in the most literal and immediate way the constitutive duality of the self and of reality.22 In The Double in Literature Paul Coates draws attention to the Romantics’ ambivalent attitude toward the Double: on the one hand, the Romantics were afraid of the Double, since it demonstrated ‘the feasibility of the self’s total reification by science,’ but, on the other hand, they embraced it because it stood for the unconscious (3-4). The doubling of the self was a reflection of the increasing mediation of reality, to which cinema contributed by producing a boundless, self-perpetuating and continuously frustrated desire. Cinema ‒ the art of doubling par excellence ‒ eventually rendered the Double in literature redundant and trivial (68). The antithesis between the ‘here’ of the individual and the ‘there’ of others is translated into internal space. Perhaps its main agents are

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the media, which create a society that is all mediation and phantasmagoria, never encountered directly. … The structure of imagination is one of frustration. But if frustration evokes aggression as a response, the only aggression here is directed inwards, toward self-splitting. The overdevelopment of the sense of sight in the modern era is bound in with this frustration: you can look, but you cannot touch, it says. (5-6)

Doubling was not only an effect of the rise of a mass culture that stripped every object of its individuality; it was also linked to nineteenth-century national and colonial projects, for the Double appears under two conditions, ‘when other people begin to be viewed as akin to ourselves; and when the self is projected into a space hitherto defined as other’ (32).23 Thus, according to Coates, far from being limited to a particular mental illness, the Double is constitutive of personal, national, and supra-national identity. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, urbanization and industrialization created the necessary conditions for the emergence of ‘the double’ as a coping mechanism, whose function was to preserve the privacy and unconventionality of the self. The current cinematic epidemic of the multiple suggests that we have inherited the Romantics’ ambivalence toward the Double. If the Romantics were afraid of the Double since it demonstrated ‘the feasibility of the self’s total reification by science,’ we fear the multiple because it reflects the sense of de-realization characteristic of postmodern experience. In this respect, the obsession with the unreliability/multiplicity of memory and with retrieving the past ‒ consider the ubiquity of films involving amnesiac protagonists ‒ is a symptom of the vanishing of immediate experience, for which memory serves as an inadequate surrogate. The inability to remember one’s own actions or feelings, or to identify with one’s own memories ‒ the sense that they are false or manufactured ‒ epitomizes the experience of living in an increasingly mediated and mediatized culture, which continuously projects upon us images, memories and desires that we do not recognize as ‘our own’ but that we adopt nevertheless.24 If, on the other hand, the Romantics were also fascinated by the Double, insofar as it stood for the unconscious, we embrace the multiple because it stands for freedom, autonomy, agency, opportunity, and for our belief in second chances. The idea of multiple identities and realities is part of the entrepreneurial rhetoric of multi-tasking and the self-help rhetoric of increasing one’s opportunities, reclaiming one’s agency, taking control of one’s life.25 In Doubles: Studies in Literary History (1987) Karl Miller extends the meaning of ‘multiplicity’ beyond esoteric and psychiatric definitions, for instance beyond the dominant Freudian interpretation of doubling as a


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symptom of the fear of death (the self invents a double in order to compensate for its own insufficiency or mortality), its interpretation as a form of ‘primitive and prehistoric narcissism’ or, more recently, as the postmodern subject’s overcompensation for his powerlessness (26). As Miller himself puts it, he is concerned with both ‘the clinical phenomenon of multiple identity and the cultural phenomenon of a multiple identity’ (21, my italics). The increased visibility of the double in the second half of the nineteenth century, he argues, was a result of the radical change in demographics brought about by urbanization: sheer population growth enhanced the individual’s fear of the mob and provoked in him the desire for a secret, private life that would grant him the freedom to circumvent the conventions of public life.26 Generally speaking, however, doubling is an instance of the genre of Romance, which is itself rooted in duality or equivocation, that is to say, in a universal, non-pathological incongruity between reality and desire: ‘Duality and romance can be studied … as one and the same; they are among the strange compounds to which duality itself attends and of which it is constituted. Romance has often been equivocal, and the Romanticism of modern times has drawn on the dualistic outlook established in the ancient world’ (23). By positing duality as ‘a response to [the often conflicting] demands made by the environment’ (23) Miller, like Coates, transcends the pathology or illness model of duality and multiplicity ‒ as far as he is concerned, duality and multiplicity are nothing but ‘general [instances] of contradiction, hazard, and uncertainty’ (25). According to Paul Antze and Michael Lambek, editors of Tense Past: Cultural Essays in Trauma and Memory (1996), the current proliferation of illness discourses, the multiple personality discourse in particular, points to the crisis of the collective in American culture: ‘There are few explicitly bounded forms of social organization beyond the (shrinking) nuclear family and the individual. This loss of the collective may bring new forms of illness. One curious feature of multiple personality is that it resurrects elements of social, political and family life within the sufferer’ (xxiii). In this reading, the epidemic of the multiple disguises processes of disintegration taking place at all social levels, including the family, the nation, and the state. An analogy can thus be drawn between the recognition of autonomous alters within a multiple personality and, on the other side, the political recognition of ethnic groups within nation states. The rise of therapeutic discourse in North America testifies to a general political indifference manifest in the escape from collective guilt through the medicalization of personal experience (xxiii-xxiv). On the other hand, however, in Western societies the construction of individuals as forensic subjects tends to enhance the

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link between memory and accountability: memory becomes problematic, that is to say, linked to multiplicity, only when there is a possibility for re-describing past actions under new descriptions not available at the time of the original events.27 Thus, contrary to Antze and Lambek, in Trauma and Recovery (2001) Judith Herman reads our preoccupation with memory, particularly with ‘traumatic memory’ (a term coined by Pierre Janet) politically: ‘every time we have taken trauma seriously,’ she argues, ‘it has been “in affiliation with a political movement”’ (quoted in Hacking, Rewriting the Soul, 55). In The Bifurcation of the Self: The History and Theory of Dissociation and Its Disorders, Robert W. Rieber presents the crisis of identity epitomized by the multiple personality epidemic as a reflection of a pervading crisis in our culture: the breaking of the connection between the biological, psychological, and social levels of existence. Dissociation is not inherently pathological, he argues ‒ all people possess the capacity to dissociate (for example, automatic writing), which can be used for creative as well as destructive ends. In considering why multiple personality became so fashionable at the end of the nineteenth century and then again at the end of the twentieth century, Rieber dismisses purely deterministic explanations. According to the most prominent of these, in these periods the problem of the self became more urgent as a result of the appearance of new tools and techniques that allowed researchers greater access to the psyche (194). This implies that the number of multiple personality cases increased in response to the introduction of more advanced scientific tools for studying multiple personality. Rather than attributing the rise of multiple personality cases to a single factor ‒ whether this is the industrial revolution, the theory of evolution, or social Darwinism ‒ Rieber points to the general ‘rapidity of change’ as the most likely explanation. After a long time of stagnation, people felt the pace of change had picked up over a single generation: ‘With the prospect of profound change ‒ scientific, political, economic and environmental ‒ comes the threat of a loss of a sense of personal identity. A collective fascination ‒ indeed, infatuation ‒ with MPD/DID [multiple personality disorder/](dissociation identity disorder) is a symptom of social distress’ (194). Similarly, in Dissociation of Trauma: Theory, Phenomenology, and Technique, Brenner approaches multiple personality both as a mental illness and a defensive mechanism/strategy to cope with anxiety in one’s daily life: attributing unwanted problems to ‘alters’ relieves one from the responsibility for dealing with them. Thus, Brenner insists on the dual status of multiple personality as both the result of trauma and a strategy for coping with trauma, ‘as an altered state associated with previous trauma,


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and one which may be reactivated and employed to ward off anxiety due to intrapsychic conflict in the here-and-now’ (x). In Rewriting the Soul (1998) Ian Hacking traces the history of the multiple from a fascinating marvel, through an object of scientific knowledge constructed by the new sciences of memory, to a mere instance of the general phenomenon of indeterminacy. Hacking contends that the first multiple personality ‘epidemic’ was precipitated by the emergence of the new sciences of memory in the latter half of the nineteenth century (the second epidemic ‘broke out’ in the 1970s).28 The new sciences of memory popularized the idea of memory as an object of knowledge; the idea, that is, that there are facts to be known about memory, that there are specific ways in which memory functions and, consequently, that there must be deviations from the normal functioning of memory, a pathology of memory encompassing a whole range of memory dysfunctions. The fact that the new sciences of memory became possible only after multiple personality was linked to memory failure suggests that skepticism ‒ doubting that what we observe naturally is not the ‘natural’ or the ‘proper’ state of things ‒ is constitutive of scientific discourse: only after people began doubting the proper functioning of memory did it become a proper object of knowledge and the multiple was posited as pathological. However, as Hacking’s history of the social construction of the concept of multiple personality demonstrates, the discourse of multiple personality disorder gradually redeemed it from an illness to a culturally sanctioned way of expressing distress, or a choice of a different ‘lifestyle’. Perhaps most importantly, the multiple epidemic provoked a major shift in French philosophy insofar as doubling and multiple personality compromised the idea of a noumenal, transcendental, autonomous self persisting, without change, through time. While early definitions of multiple personality emphasized the multiplication of personalities, regular revisions in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ‒ for instance, the substitution of ‘dissociated identity disorder’ for ‘multiple personality disorder’ ‒ shifted the emphasis from the multiplication of autonomous, integrated personalities to the fragmentation of the personality and the attempt to reintegrate it.29 In turn, fragmentation was gradually recuperated as ‘an expressive idiom’, which promised to reveal aspects of self and reality that had remained obscured. Multiple personality came to be construed in terms of a proliferation of opportunities or perspectives, the opening up of new possible ways of being ‒ hence Paul Antze’s question, ‘What kind of expressive and reflective possibilities [does multiple personality] open?’ (‘Telling Stories, Making Lives’, 6). Associating multiple personality with ‘fantasy’, ‘moral ambiguity’ and ‘a

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sense of agency’, Antze argues that alters open up expressive possibilities that are usually suppressed by recovered memory therapy: ‘Here … the imaginative, theatrical dimension of multiple personality as an expressive idiom offers a way of loosening and compensating for the frozen sense of the past implicit in recovered memory therapy’ (18, my italics).30 In his Introduction to The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Oliver Sacks takes the refusal to treat mental illness as illness to its logical extreme by suggesting that mental illness is actually the patient’s attempt to deal with his condition, to preserve his identity. For Sacks, mental illness is a symptom of something else: rather than the illness exhibiting itself through symptoms, the illness itself (he talks mostly about conditions resulting from damage to the much ‘underrated’ right hemisphere) is a symptom of the disorder or chaos of the patient’s condition. Mental illness is the patient’s own strategy of imposing order and coherence on the chaos that has become his life.31 Sacks concludes that we must not try to ‘cure’ the patient but to help him maintain his coping strategy as best he can so he can continue to adapt to his condition.

American Culture and the Discourse of Multiple Personality In Rewriting the Soul (1998) Ian Hacking objects to Adam Crabtree’s claim, in Multiple Man: Explorations in Possession and Multiple Personality (1985), that ‘there is one experience [of multiplicity] to be expressed, one that is expressed in a variety of symptom languages. That is, there is a sort of pure inner experience, prior to any description or social environment that one just has’ (149). The symptomatic language of multiple personality is by no means universal; rather, there are different types of narrative chronotopes underlying each symptomatic expression of multiplicity. The experience of multiplicity is itself multiple, embodied in a range of narrative structures that dictate how much, is experienced and recalled, and in what specific ways. If the best metaphor for memory is storytelling, it is possible to distinguish different ‘genres’ of memory ‒ and different chronotopes of multiplicity ‒ corresponding to different narrative styles. Film does not objectify or reproduce mental functions; rather, chronotopes or narrative genres ‒ shaped by the particular cultural and social context ‒ circumscribe the operation of various mental functions, including memory. Considerably different symptomatic languages reflect nationally or culturally inflected notions of alterity or multiplicity. Different genres of memory are simply a natural consequence of the fact that ‘memories are never simply records of the past, but are interpretive re-


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constructions that bear the imprint of local narrative conventions, cultural assumptions, discursive formations and practices, and social contexts of recall and commemoration’ (Antze and Lambek, ‘Preface’, vii). As Laurence Kirmayer has argued, access to memory depends on the narrative formula or genre the act of recall assumes: thus, dissociation ‘is a rupture in narrative but it is also maintained by narrative. … Narrative conventions may give rise to dissociation in several ways: by tolerating gaps in accounts of memory, identity, and experience when they occur; by expecting such gaps and creating a place for them in the story’ (Kirmayer 181). Put differently, it is not because a person suffers from dissociative identity disorder that her recollections are fragmentary; rather, it is because the culturally sanctioned narrative structure within which events are recalled is fragmentary that the person’s memories are dissociated. For instance, there are two prototypical narrative formats corresponding to two different types of pathology: post-traumatic stress disorders (whose narrative is marked by intrusions) and dissociative disorders (whose narrative is marked by gaps). The difference in narrative conventions depends on the different social contexts of remembering: while Holocaust survivors are usually encouraged to retell their traumatic stories, victims of more private forms of abuse (such as sexual abuse) feel embarrassed and discouraged from such retellings, which in turn produces gaps in the retelling of the traumatic episode (Kirmayer 187). Thus, since memory is structured like a narrative, and narrative is inflected by genre, it is possible to talk of culturally specific ‘symptomatic languages’ or ‘discourses’ of multiple personality. The difference between Hollywood and European chronotopes of multiplicity can be traced back to a notable difference between Anglo-American and European (mostly French) medical discourses of multiple personality precursors. The different symptomatic languages of Anglo-American and Continental discourses of multiple personality precursors correspond to different notions of alternative consciousness, not to a singular alterity that simply assumes different manifestations. Hacking distinguishes two symptom languages of precursors to multiple personality: One was primarily Continental, the language of spontaneous somnambulism, and strongly connected with the language of artificial somnambulism. The other symptom language, primarily British and American, was the language of double consciousness, which was largely separated from animal magnetism and hypnotism. This is particularly important because there is virtually no interest in memory within the symptom language of double consciousness. (Rewriting the Soul 149-150, my italics)

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This difference can be attributed to a difference in medical and social traditions. In France the psychological study of memory has historically been predicated on pathology (amnesia), which explains the stronger emphasis on memory in Continental literature on multiple personality; in the US, however, psychology began as experimental physiology (205).32 The predominantly Anglo-American symptom language of double consciousness referred only to two alternate states, emphasizing the passivity implied in the term ‘consciousness’.33 In other words, the distinguishing characteristic of the Anglo-American double consciousness was two-way amnesia: neither of the two alternating states knows what happens in the other state. Physicians dealing with double consciousness were generally uninterested in memory: they simply recorded that the patient has no awareness of the other state: ‘Memory and forgetting were simply unimportant to what was known in the English-speaking world as “double consciousness.” This is an absolutely fundamental contrast with the French cases after 1875’ (155).34 The nineteenth century Anglo-American symptom language of double consciousness persists in contemporary American cinema, as evidenced by films that claim to be about multiple personality but in which, in fact, double consciousness is made to ‘pass’ for multiple personality. Raising Cain (Brian De Palma, 1992) tells the story of a child psychiatrist who abused his own son in order to split his personality and study it. The story focuses exclusively on the protagonist’s two alternating personalities ‒ the benevolent, mild, indecisive and passive host personality and the aggressive, amoral and sarcastic dominant alter; the other alters are barely glimpsed, or we are simply told they exist without ever seeing them. In Primal Fear (Gregory Hoblit, 1996), an ambitious lawyer takes up the case of Aaron Stampler, a nineteen-year-old altar boy accused of murdering the Archbishop of Chicago. Although the psychiatric examination requested by the lawyer reveals that, in the words of the psychiatrist, Stampler is a ‘textbook case of multiple personality’, Aaron has only one alter. It is a sloppy diagnosis, yet in a way it also works because, as we discover in the final scene, not only is Aaron not suffering from a multiple personality disorder, it is not even clear that he has as many as two personalities: the shy, innocent-looking Aaron and the bold, arrogant Roy. In the final scene the lawyer, realizing that his client has been manipulating him all along, asks Aaron: ‘So there never was a Roy?’ Offended, Aaron/Roy replies: ‘There never was an Aaron. It was me, Roy, all along.’ Films like Jekyll+Hyde (Nick Stillwell, 2006), The Return (Asif Kapadia, 2006), and Memory (Bennett Davlin, 2006) demonstrate the continued influence of the nineteenth-century Anglo-American discourse of double consciousness exemplified by the invasion of one consciousness,


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presented as completely passive, by another (the alter consciousness). The protagonist of The Return is invaded by a dead woman’s memories and relives them passively; in Memory the protagonist passively relives his mother’s memories;35 and in Jekyll+Hyde the protagonist succumbs to the effects of an experimental drug resembling ecstasy, which transforms him from a shy college kid into a violent and sexually voracious young man. American culture has been particularly receptive towards the concepts of duality and multiplicity and the range of phenomena they signify. As Ian Hacking observes, the multiple personality movement ‘has a rather fresh, American quality to it’ (Rewriting the Soul 39).36 According to Karl Miller, the idea of a dual or plural self perfectly fitted the American imagination inasmuch as it reflected America’s search for identity, specifically its ambivalent relationship to the ‘Old World’ and its past, which it both sought to escape and to translate into a new context: For such a place, the imagination of an Ishmael and of a plural self, of rebellion, hostility, and distress, of secrecy and mystery, adventure and escape, could not fail to make sense. These have indeed been imagined as the concerns of an American imagination, though they are no less characteristic of the literature of Romanticism. (Miller 349)

Drawing attention to American culture’s fascination with multiple and alternate worlds, Stanley Cavell finds Hollywood cinema in general to be about contrasting everyday worlds with the worlds of the imagination, reality and fantasy ‒ not only in more obvious instances like The Matrix, but also in horror films (which are usually about the transformation of the self or reality) or musicals (which are always about the transformation of an ordinary world into an imaginary world of ideal harmony). ‘In contrast to Europe’s definite but marginal interest in the fantastic,’ argues Cavell, ‘America has been centrally preoccupied with it’ (In Quest of the Ordinary 183).37 The founding works of American culture are works dealing with other possible worlds (for example, Thoreau’s Walden, which Cavell reads as a fantastic text). In the radio program ‘The Case of Sigmund Freud,’38 Hacking attributes Freud’s popularity in America to the modern fascination with excess, pathology and perversion. Freud’s theory was an attempt at reconstituting identity, offering people a way to think of the continuities and discontinuities, the losses and ruptures that constituted their lives at a time when societies were losing their historical continuities (the breakdown of nations). His ideas appealed to those still holding on to a romantic notion of another, secret,

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perhaps more authentic, self. America proved especially fertile ground for Freud’s theories, argues Sander Gilman in the radio program America on the Couch.39 The 1880s-1890s saw the beginning of a public discourse about sexuality, and many American intellectuals saw Freud’s theories as contributing to that discourse by providing a scientific and yet non-physiological way of talking about sexuality. American psychoanalysis was built on an already existing tradition of psychotherapy rooted in American evangelical theology and practice within the Protestant church. In The Passion of Ansel Bourne: Multiple Personality in American Culture, Michael G. Kenny links the popularity of psychoanalysis in American culture to the particularities of American Puritan Culture. On the basis of his study of a high number of cases of multiple personality in turn-of-the-century America, Kenny argues that multiple personality is ‘a culturally specific metaphor, not a universally distributed mental disorder’ (Kenny 3), suggesting that there is something specifically ‘American’ about multiple personality or, alternatively, that as a cultural metaphor multiple personality is particularly representative of American culture. The root paradigm of multiple personality dates back to St. Augustine and to what Perry Miller has described as the Augustinian flavor of New England Puritan Culture: The Protestant soul has considerable schismatic potential ‒ one rich in the symbolism of mental disorder. The self, the theologians reasoned, is to be denied because tainted by old Adam’s sins. Conversion ‒ as essential requirement of the Puritan pietistic tradition ‒ entailed recognition of one’s utter worthlessness. … Paradoxically, the self had to be lost so that it could be found. (7)

Kenny underscores the therapeutic nature and the moral perfectionism of New England Puritan Culture, both illustrated by the case of Ansel Bourne’s miraculous conversion. Americans such as Morton Prince, William James and Richard Hodgson were preoccupied with the problem of the self, a distinctly American self ‘perfectible through striving’ (8) under the influence of Puritanism. ‘To this day,’ argues Kenny, ‘the popular literature on this disorder [multiple personality] is based on the theme of suffering and transfiguration, of a new self achieved through a Christlike passion pointing in the old Augustinian way to rebirth ‒ to resurrection’ (7). According to Mervin Jones, the reasons for Freud’s appeal to Americans should also be sought in America’s own history. America came together as a nation at a time when the belief in reason was merging with the nineteenthcentury belief in science. The message of psychoanalysis ‒ that people


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should recognize and confront their irrational desires, ideas, and fears in order to become rational again ‒ was already part of an American national discourse structured around the idea of fulfilling one’s potential and pursuing happiness. 40 The fact that Freud was Jewish also played a role: he was seen as a hero, a symbol of the resistance of the Liberal West against the Nazi. Of course psychoanalysis had its critics, those who objected to the way in which it promoted itself as a science while being organized like a religion, relying on faith rather than proof. Nevertheless, by the 1940s psychoanalysts had won the battle against biologically oriented psychiatrists. After the war neuroses that had been previously understood as caused by small hemorrhages in the brain were now seen as manifesting deep psychological problems. The translation of physiological into psychological problems, and the change in the meaning of ‘trauma’ (mental, rather than physical) was reflected in the new terminology adopted by everyone: broken minds, rather than broken limbs. 41 Hollywood’s interest in psychoanalysis dates back to the period before sound, when MGM tried to persuade Freud to make a psychoanalytic film, an offer Freud declined (he was appalled by the Americans’ simplified, bowdlerized version of psychoanalysis). 42 Despite Freud’s disapproval, the film was made: Pabst’s Secrets of a Soul (1926) allowed viewers to ‘get into the character’s head’ through various dream episodes, close-ups, and so forth. Psychoanalysts were beginning to be hired as consultants on various films (for example, Selznik hired the Jewish psychoanalyst he was seeing as a consultant on Spellbound). The interaction between psychoanalysts and film personnel was not unidirectional: for instance, the complicated relationship between glamorous patients (such as Marilyn Monroe) and their psychoanalysts introduced a new concept into psychoanalysis, ‘counter-transference’. By 1960, one third of all psychiatrists in the US were psychoanalysts and two thirds admitted they used the dynamic approach with their patients. Hitchcock was, of course, a master at incorporating psychoanalytic themes and concepts in films like Spellbound (1945), The Birds (1963), and Marnie (1964). By the end of the decade, however, the different schools of psychoanalysis were quarrelling amongst themselves as new drugs for psychosis and neurosis were proving more effective than the talking cure. 43 From the 1960s onward, multiple personality in American culture and cinema evolved from a disorder to a socially acceptable way of expressing distress or unhappiness. Two of the most insightful films of the 1970s dealing with multiple personality ‒ Sybil (Daniel Petrie, 1976)44 and I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (Anthony Page, 1977) ‒ already encouraged

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viewers to see multiple personality as a means of discovering oneself, ‘an expressive idiom’ that reinvests the subject with agency, thereby serving a therapeutic purpose. Sybil, based on Flora Rheta Schreiber’s novel, tells the true story of ‘Sybil’ and her 16 alters. The film deals with a prototypical case of multiple personality: a young woman develops a set of alternate personalities as a means of coping with a childhood sexual trauma (she was sexually abused by her mentally unstable mother). Sybil’s multiple alters ranged in age, from Peggy, who represented Sybil at the age when the trauma happened, to Vicky, who was Sybil’s current age. 45 Sybil’s therapist, Dr. Wilbur, hypothesized that Sybil invented the other alters in order to preserve in each one of them some of the skills or aspects of her character that she cared for but that were repressed as a result of the trauma: for example, one alter played the piano, another was a sophisticated young lady, a third one was a free-spirited, romantic young woman, and so on. The film represents Sybil’s transformations into her alters as involuntary: she regularly blacks out, loses time, and comes to her senses in new places, wearing new clothes, unable to remember how she got there or how much time has passed. However, once Sybil begins treatment, there is a slight but definite change in the way the film represents her alternating personalities: she begins to miraculously transform into the alter who best matches the specific social situation in which she finds herself; that is to say, she is (unconsciously or consciously) assuming (choosing from a range of options) different social roles or different personas. For example, when the neighbor across from her apartment invites her to go out with him, the repressed, shy Sybil cannot go but, the voice-over tells us, the fun-loving, outgoing alter Vicky can. When Sybil seeks to impress Dr. Wilbur or seeks intimacy, she assumes the ‘role’ (the alter) that one would expect a young woman trying to impress her mother would assume: she turns into a sophisticated young woman or into a young girl who sings and plays the piano beautifully. The notion of multiple personality as role-playing or social histrionics is incorporated into the plot. During one of the sessions, Dr. Wilbur informs Sybil that she must leave town for a while. Sybil responds to the news by ‘confessing’ that she invented her multiple personality, that she was pretending the whole time and that once she had learned what kind of response Dr. Wilbur expected during hypnosis, she would train herself to deliver it. A few scenes later, Sybil admits that she lied, and that she was so afraid she wouldn’t be able to function in Dr. Wilbur’s absence that her only way of dealing with her terrible sense of abandonment was to pretend she invented her illness. The astounding level of self-consciousness and knowledge Sybil demonstrates about her illness corroborates Hacking’s


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argument that recovered memory therapy works by developing a false consciousness in the patient, who adopts the vocabulary of her therapist and learns to conform to the therapist’s expectations. In fact, contrary to Hacking’s assumption that the patient remains unaware of her own conformism, Sybil is well aware of her false consciousness, including the reasons why she invented it. Thus, she appears more knowledgeable about her own condition than her own therapist. Paradoxically, she is not conscious of her alters, but she is knowledgeable about the process by which a patient can objectify her illness. Although the film does not shy away from representing Sybil’s desperate attempts to lead a normal life, it is also clearly fascinated with her wide range of alternate personalities. The ending celebrates the reintegration of Sybil’s alters in a way that presents them as enriching her personality rather than being an obstacle to her personal development. By the time we get to the final sequence, we no longer see multiple personality as a mental illness but as an invaluable means of self-discovery. In the film’s climactic moment, Sybil declares, ‘I am Sybil and I remember,’ her proud response to Socrates’ dictum ‘Know thyself!’ The utter conviction with which she utters these words is bound to provoke envy in any viewer who has ever questioned his/her own identity. Sybil’s struggle with multiple personality disorder assumes the metaphorical, and thus universal, dimensions of the subject’s search for identity: mental illness, we are led to believe, provides the most reliable means of discovering who you really are.46 Only someone whose sense of self has been completely shattered, who cannot seem to ‘collect’ herself from one moment to the next, who is constantly forced to account for herself through time, in spite of the periods of ‘lost time’ and in spite of her alienation from her own memories, only someone who is never who she is, can really claim to be herself. Multiple personality is thus redeemed from an illness to a precious opportunity for rethinking, expanding and reaffirming the self. In I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, Deborah, a psychotic teenager, is sent to a mental asylum after attempting to commit suicide. Since Deborah hears voices and has elaborate visions of another reality, she is diagnosed as schizophrenic rather than a multiple; however, she shares many of Sybil’s symptoms, particularly the loss of time (represented, as in Sybil, by quick, abrasive cuts between temporally and spatially unrelated scenes). The voices Deborah hears come from another world called (what else?) ‘Dreamland’. In Dreamland she assumes the persona of a Native American girl and plays out various scenarios in which she is punished by the angry ‘gods’ of an imaginary cult. Like Sybil, who lies to her therapist

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that she invented all her alters, thus displaying an unusual self-awareness and knowledge about her illness, Deborah is very adept at analyzing her own condition: she seems to have read Freud, whom she mentions in one conversation with her therapist, and she adopts her therapist’s persona quite easily (in one scene Deborah ‘plays’ the therapist to her therapist). 47 The film’s overall dark tone is undercut by a motivational rhetoric, which reinvests the character with a sense of agency. We are familiar with this kind of optimism from popular self-help books, for instance Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, which assures readers that all it takes to achieve something is to want it really badly, so badly that it will come true, like a self-fulfilling prophesy. In one scene Deborah hears her therapist’s voice ‒ which at this point is indistinguishable from the other voices she has been hearing ‒ which assures her that she can ignore the voices in her head, she can choose to be sane, for if she created that cult she can surely destroy it too. She can simply ‘choose’ not to be insane, like a dreamer ‘choosing’ to wake up (Vanilla Sky) or a dead man eventually ‘resigning’ himself to death (The Sixth Sense).

Philosophical Roots of the Hollywood Cinema of the Multiple In many respects, William James’s doctrines of radical empiricism and pluralism anticipate Hollywood’s fascination with double and multiple personality. James’s critique of rationalism48 and monistic idealism, 49 his panegyric to multiplicity and excess ‒ both strongly indebted to Nietzsche and Bergson ‒ are premised on his understanding of experience, time, and the self as ‘distributive’ rather than absolute, unified phenomena: I now say that the notion of the ‘one’ breeds foreignness and that of the ‘many’ intimacy. … Everything you can think of, however vast or inclusive, has on the pluralistic view a genuinely ‘external’ environment of some sort of amount. Things are ‘with’ one another in many ways, but nothing includes everything, or dominates over everything. The word ‘and’ trails along after every sentence. Something always escapes. … Monism, on the other hand, insists that when you come down to reality as such, to the reality of realities, everything is present to everything else in one vast instantaneous co-implicated completeness ‒ nothing can in any sense, functional or substantial, be really absent from anything else, all things interpenetrate and telescope together in the great total conflux. (Essays in Radical Empiricism 320-321).


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In James’s philosophy, multiple personality plays a privileged role analogous to that of Pure Memory in Bergson’s philosophy.50 ‘The abnormal’ and ‘supernormal’ facts of multiple personality provide the best demonstration of James’s concepts of ‘co-consciousness’ and ‘multiverse’. These two concepts entail a complete rethinking of memory loss, which in this context is nothing but a reflection of the universal nature of experience as distributed, infinite and therefore incomplete, in contrast to the monist idea of rationality as one and indivisible: The numerous facts of divided or split human personality which the genius of certain medical men, as Janet, Freud, Prince, Sadis and others have given us [provide] the strongest suggestions in favor of a superior co-consciousness being possible. I doubt whether we shall ever understand some of them without using the very letter of Fechner’s conception of a great reservoir in which the memories of earth’s inhabitants are pooled and preserved [cf. Bergson’s notion of Pure Memory], and from which, when the threshold lowers or the valve opens, information ordinarily shut out leaks into the mind of exceptional individuals among us. (A Pluralistic Universe 298-299)

For James, multiple personality is simply an enhanced version of the general phenomenon of indeterminacy or inconsistency: The phenomenon of alternating personality in its simplest phases seems based on lapses of memory. Any man becomes, as we say, inconsistent with himself if he forgets his engagements, pledges, knowledges, and habits; and it is merely a question of degree at what point we shall say that his personality is changed. (James quoted in Miller 332)51

If ‘states of consciousness … can separate and combine themselves freely, and keep their own identity unchanged while forming parts of simultaneous fields of experience of wider scope’ (A Pluralistic Universe, 181) on analogy with the natural complementarity of sensations, then there is no essential difference between the transition from one consciousness to the next in a ‘healthy’ person and the alternation of personalities within a multiple. Identity is distributive rather than collective; from this point of view, a multiple’s alters exist simultaneously and autonomously without being taken up into one unified self. The alters’ experience and knowledge are not summed up in the superior knowledge of some transcendental self ‒ the host personality ‒ which is not to say, however, that their experience

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and knowledge are dissociated from one another. It is not necessary for memories belonging to the multiple alters to be added up and stored in one single memory, for collective knowledge is not necessarily total and comprehensive. The transcendentalists’ claim that ‘no part of anything can be except so far as the whole also is’ (192) is, therefore, not true to our experience ‘for we experience ourselves ignorantly and in division’ (193). Arguing against the compound theory, James maintains that higher mental states do not consist of simpler ones, and they are not the same with them; rather, they know the same things (189). For example, the consciousness of the 26 letters of the alphabet is not the sum of 26 simpler consciousnesses, but rather a 27th fact (189). Higher thoughts are ‘psychic units, not compounds; but for all that they may know together as a collective multitude the very same objects which under other conditions are known separately by as many simple thoughts’ (189). In place of the monist principles of exclusion and totality (both of which rely on an even more fundamental principle or logical operation ‒ relation ‒ which makes all things external to one another) James proposes the principle of reversibility, complementarity, penetration or possession. Thus, following Bergson, he envisions the past, the present and the future as complementary or co-present. If ‘[t]he times directly felt in the experiences of living subjects have originally no common measure’ (232), loss of time is an illusion, for it presupposes the notion of an objective, evenly flowing time, cut into instants, steps and phases. The continuity of time is posited only retrospectively, argues James: the ‘native shape’ of time is precisely the break, the gap, just as the ‘native shape’ of motion is vertigo. The co-presence of past, present and future ‒ artificially or conceptually separated by ‘the cut to which we give the name of present’ (254) ‒ entails the co-presence of all past, present and future selves. The idea of co-presence is, therefore, incompatible with the idea of ‘lost time’. As long as we remain within the immediate point of view, rather than thinking conceptually about our own experience, we can see that one and the same phenomenon can be both mental and physical, that the same place can be both behind me and in front of you, can be both passive and active without the ‘need of doubling-up its being’ (270). Gaps, moments of inattention or blackouts do not suggest an abnormal, dissociative mind ‒ such lapses are constitutive of the distributive notion of the self/reality as both continuous and discontinuous. Each self is a succession of multiple selves ‘each knowing the same matter but in ever-widening contexts’ (206). How does James’ doctrine anticipate or inform Hollywood cinema of the multiple? On the one hand, the films discussed below subscribe to


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James’s radical empiricism insofar as they construe the self, time and reality as distributive and multiple. That they do not presuppose an objectively existing, evenly flowing time is clear from their fascination with a wide variety of types of chronological confusion, which cannot be explained away no matter how diligently one tries to put narrative events into a chronological order. The films (for example, Premonition, Déjà vu, The Jacket, The Lake House) treat the past, the present and the future as co-present, with characters traveling between them either mentally and metaphorically (Linda’s time-travel/guilt trip, in Premonition, during which she must decide whether her marriage is worth fighting for) or with the help of state-of-the-art technology (Déjà vu). Insofar as our sense of reality depends on our sense of time, one consequence of treating the past, the present and the future as co-present is the destabilization of ontological distinctions between the physical and the mental, and between the real and the unreal.52 Hollywood cinema of the multiple is also faithful to James’ pragmatism, particularly with respect to the notions of truth and belief. James emphasized the practical effects of belief and assertion, claiming that truth is that which is ultimately good for us to believe. Since beliefs are instruments for coping with the world, those beliefs that help us cope are the ones that are true (of course, the coping-value of beliefs is itself relative). As we shall see, Hollywood cinema of the multiple envisions what appear to be multiple or plural worlds only to reduce them to strategies for coping with psychological trauma (or for coping with more mundane problems, such as marital ones) and for reinvesting characters with a sense of agency. Further, James’s rejection of a straight correspondence theory of truth implies that there is no single correct account of the world. Thus, there is no clear distinction between a ‘good account’ (an account that ‘works’ for us) and a ‘correct account’: multiple different good accounts, even multiple different correct accounts, are possible. The films considered below construe the multiple in similarly pragmatic terms: they present the multiplication of realities, identities or temporalities as a conceptual or logical problem, whose only solution is the reduction of a confusing, treacherous multiplicity to a single ‘real’ reality, the one granting the protagonist the greatest degree of agency, or a single ‘real’ self, the one free to choose himself (often a guilty self who, once he has become aware of his guilt, is finally free to choose himself as innocent/redeemed and ultimately singular rather than multiple ‒ for example, as in the Bourne Identity trilogy, The Number 23, Unknown, and so forth).

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Hollywood Cinema of the Multiple In recent decades, Hollywood has been specializing in a wide range of delusional disorders, including the Capgras delusion, the Fregoli delusion, the syndrome of intermetamorphosis, the syndrome of subjective doubles, lycanthropy, reduplicative paramnesia, autoscopy, and others. The phenomenon of multiplicity occupies a privileged place in this new cinematic landscape of delusions. Hollywood has become adept at borrowing the symptomatic language of doubling and multiple personality ‒ characterized, among other things, by trauma, memory loss, and blackouts ‒ to create what appears to be a new genre of films structured around multiple (stolen, assumed or mistaken) realities, identities or temporalities. In Genres in Discourse Todorov distinguishes several principles of narrative organization, including succession and transformation.53 The simplest type of transformation is negation: the changing of one term into its contrary (for example, a project is accomplished or not). A more complicated type of transformation involves the movement from ignorance to knowledge: ‘an erroneous perception of an event is opposed to an accurate perception of that same event’ (31). Todorov refers to narratives based on the logic of succession and transformation as ‘mythological.’ On the other hand, there are ‘narratives in which the event itself is less important than our perception of it, and the degree of knowledge we have of it: hence I propose the term gnoseological for this second type of narrative organization (it might also be called epistemological)’ (31).54 The giallo narrative is essentially mythological, that is to say, based on the principle of succession: it takes the form of a series or a sampling of representative instances of the serial killer’s ‘work.’ Todorov’s second type of narrative unfolds through transformation of knowledge rather than through a sequence of events or actions: ‘passages recounting actual events are often preceded by passages in which those same events are evoked in the form of a prediction’; ‘suppositions prior to the event are matched by others recalled only after the event has taken place’; ‘the announcement [or prediction of events to come] is a transformation, not of supposition, but of knowledge: it consists in a reinterpretation of events that have already taken place’ (32). When we get to the end of the story, ‘we are in possession of the truth and not deceived by appearances’ (33). This preoccupation with the transformation of knowledge ‒ manifested in the emphasis on prediction, recollection and reinterpretation of events ‒ is the dominant structuring principle in the ‘multiple film’, in which premonitions, visions, memories (including false memories) and other strategies of deception perform the same function of building a ‘narrative of knowledge.’55


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Hollywood ‘multiple’ films ‒ for example, Total Recall (Paul Verhoeven, 1990), Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2001), The Matrix trilogy (Andy and Lana Wachowski, 1999-2003), The Thirteenth Floor (Josef Rusnak, 1999), The Island (Michael Bay, 2003), The Astronaut’s Wife (Rand Ravich, 1999), Identity (James Mangold, 2003), The Butterfly Effect (Eric Bress, J. Mackye Gruber, 2004), The Bourne Identity (Doug Liman, 2002), Vanilla Sky (Cameron Crowe, 2001), The Sixth Sense (M. Night Shyamalan, 1999), The Mothman Prophecies (Mark Pellington, 2002), Dragonfly (Tom Sadyac, 2002), The Jacket (John Maybury, 2005), The Forgotten (Joseph Ruben, 2004), Suspect Zero (E. Elias Merhige, 2004), The Village (M. Night Syamalan, 2004), Stay (Marc Forster, 2005), The Machinist (Brad Anderson, 2004), The Lake House (Alejandro Agresti, 2006), Premonition (Mennan Yapo, 2007), Session 9 (Brad Anderson, 2001), Memory (Bennett Davlin, 2006), Déjà vu (Tony Scott, 2006), The Return (Asif Kapadia, 2006), The Number 23 (Joel Schumacher, 2007), Shutter Island (Martin Scorsese, 2010) and others ‒ are distinguished by a narrative punctuated by memory gaps and various forms of ‘time-travel’, a ‘pathology’ of narrative which is, nevertheless, ultimately empowering and de-mythologizing. The ‘multiple film’ is representative of what I will call the ‘de-mythologization craze’ in Hollywood cinema: the tendency of many Hollywood films to play with logical/chronological confusion (multiple temporalities) or with ontological confusion (multiple realities or identities) ‒ claiming to de-mythologize the Cartesian notion of a self-transparent subject and the notion of an ontologically stable, transparent reality ‒ only to relapse into a mythology of agency and free will. In his book Warped Space: Art, Architecture, and Anxiety in Modern Culture (2002), the art historian Anthony Vidler analyzes the warping of modernity’s psychological, cinematic and architectural space reflected in the spatial phobias peculiar to the nineteenth century (agoraphobia and claustrophobia) and in twentieth-century theories of spatial alienation and estrangement (Simmel, Kracauer, and Benjamin).56 While spatial phobias are symptomatic of the radical changes in demographics brought about by urbanization and the rise of mass society, we might say that the multiple film emphasizes the opposite (or complementary?) warping of time that characterizes contemporary public culture. In the Hollywood multiple film, the late-capitalist therapeutic culture of customized consumption intersects with chronophobia (fear of time) and with the techno-delusional discourse of psychosis, thereby perpetuating a notion of time, reality and identity as open to ‘indefinite redefinition.’ On the other hand, in contemporary European migrant and diasporic cinema, and in hyperlink films, the language of multiplicity and dissocia-

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tion ‒ the multiplication or forking of identities, realities and temporalities ‒ intersects with the forces of globalization, rather than serving the therapeutic purpose of investing the postmodern subject with a false sense of agency, as it does in the Hollywood multiple film. Reality, time and identity are here envisioned as networks of intersecting smaller realities/ times/identities magically, metaphysically, ethically, or politically interrelated through accident, coincidence or destiny. Similarly, hyperlink films ‒ for example, Traffic, Syriana, and Babel ‒ feature multiple characters in multiple intersecting storylines, often set in globe-spanning locations and employing multiple languages.57 While Hollywood obsesses over questions such as ‘Are events real or unreal?’ and ‘Is this the past, the present or the future?’ and ultimately seeks to resolve multiple realities, identities or temporalities into a reassuring singularity, European migrant/diasporic films and hyperlink films are concerned with the philosophical, ethical or political implications of the fragmentation of the singular. The films discussed below as examples of the Hollywood multiple film (1) treat reality/identity/temporality as a confusing multiplicity which has to be reduced, through a process of elimination, to an essential, singular reality underlying the multiplicity of alternate realities; (2) approach multiple realities therapeutically, reducing them to strategies for coping with psychological trauma and for investing the protagonist with agency ‒ in this respect, the films freely borrow the symptomatic language of multiple personality, extending the medical diagnosis of multiple personality as a mechanism for coping with psychological trauma to scenarios and characters that often have nothing to do with the mental illness in question; (3) borrow the premises of idealistic philosophy, specifically Bergson’s theory of memory, for the purpose of reinvesting characters with agency ‒ specifically, by eliminating time and memory as reliable criteria for distinguishing the real from the unreal, the films multiply the options, for action or interpretation, available to characters; and (4) use the chronotope of multiple realities for the purpose of constructing an elaborate self-referential narrative structure. In these films multiple realities are not, strictly speaking, ‘multiple’ ‒ they are subordinated to a single real reality, even if they originally have precedence over it by obscuring it. Hollywood multiple films tend to follow the two-way amnesia model. I am using the term ‘two-way amnesia’ in a broad sense to refer to the fact that regardless of the number of realities involved ‒ two or more ‒ they are treated as self-sufficient, that is to say, ‘amnesiac’ of one another. Such films rely on a spectating or objectifying relationship among alters/multiples: the resolution of the plot depends on the successful identification of the


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difference between these realities, and on the reaffirmation of a single dominant reality, which eventually becomes knowledgeable about its own construction of the other realities.58 In other words, one important implication of the two-way amnesia model is that the act of acquiring knowledge or access to knowledge about the difference between multiple/alternate realities constitutes the central driving force in such narratives. The multiple becomes a mere pretext for exposing errors of judgment: reality appears to be multiple simply because somewhere down the line the protagonist and the film viewer have made a judgment error. In some of the films discussed below, the difference between alternate/multiple realities is erased so that they appear to be mutually exchangeable. In those cases, the multiple shades into the virtual ‒ not the Bergsonian virtual, the indeterminate, but its opposite, the simulacral or the predetermined. Multiplicity is posited as a problem of knowledge or judgment ‒ being able to tell the matrix from reality, for example. The illusion of a plurality/multiplicity of realities disappears once access to knowledge (about the difference between these realities) has been attained. Accordingly, such films are structured like games as characters and viewers try to guess which reality is ‘the real one’. In The Matrix trilogy, Virtuosity (Brett Leonard, 1995), Total Recall, Donnie Darko, The Truman Show (Peter Weir, 1998), and The Thirteenth Floor, the chronotope of multiple realities operates through the specularization or virtualization of the real. In The Thirteenth Floor, for example, a woman falls in love with a simulation modeled on her real husband. She eventually manages to get rid of her real husband and bring the simulation unit she is in love with to the real world, the assumption being that the ontological difference between the two lovers (she is ‘real,’ he is not) is irrelevant, even though the whole film is premised on the allegedly irreducible difference between reality and simulation. The film confuses reality and simulation to such a degree that the very notion of ‘alternate’ or ‘multiple’ realities is rendered meaningless. Although the Hollywood multiple f ilm seems to participate in the postmodern discourse of indeterminacy, multiplicity understood as indeterminacy ‒ for example, in European theories of realism, which construe indeterminacy as ‘ambiguity’, a deliberate frustration of the desire for totalizing meaning, a tendency toward semantic minimalism ‒ should not be confused with the Hollywood appropriation of multiplicity, which functions through an excess, rather than a dearth, of meaning. Instead of refraining from attributing any specific meaning to the reality they represent, Hollywood multiple films offer us several possible versions of reality. That is to say, they are grounded in the familiar logic of the multiple choice test:

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some of the answers (some of the versions of reality) are clearly meant to confuse us, but their sole reason for being is to be eliminated as ultimately implausible, incorrect or simply undesirable. The Hollywood multiple film seeks to reinvest the subject with a sense of agency by creating the illusion that there are multiple choices from which he still has the freedom to choose. In this respect, the cinematic discourse of the multiple might be seen as a last attempt at re-enchanting late capitalist secularized culture (consider the recent flourishing of the fantasy genre and the popularity of films about magic, e.g. The Prestige (Christopher Nolan, 2006) and The Illusionist (Neil Burger, 2006)); an attempt, that is, to reinvest the world with magic, not the supernatural magic of old times (making the visible invisible or vice versa) but a modern kind of magic that involves envisioning a series of alternate worlds, in which a supposedly powerless or traumatized subject continues to function in surprisingly effective ways. Many of these films are structured around essentially negative mental states, that is, states defined by absence or loss (the absence or loss of sleep, sanity, or memory) such as insomnia, amnesia, paramnesia or multiple/ dissociative identity disorder. The films work through various processes of restoration, recovery, repetition, recollection, recuperation and reconstruction, all of which imply a certain corrective or de-mythologizing function; that is to say, the purpose of such films is to expose, overcome, or correct some sort of deception or self-deception. Hollywood is obsessed with repetition, with events that have already happened, will have happened, might not have happened, events that are relived, forgotten or prefigured, events that feel like déjà vu or like self-fulfilling prophecies ‒ as far as Hollywood is concerned, the present is the least interesting modality of time. This preoccupation with reordering, restructuring, and reediting events, with multiple or alternate pasts and futures, with shifting identities and unreliable narrators, might appear liberating and optimistic. However, the assumption that thoughts, memories, previsions or intuitions are recordable, that the future can be designed and the past erased, suggests a rather sobering understanding of time as essentially foreclosed: there is no future, because the future is already available (Minority Report (Steven Spielberg, 2002)) or because the future, even if presented as real, nevertheless continues to exist in a suspended state, awaiting confirmation from the past that will make the future ‘really’ possible and real (Back to the Future (Robert Zemeckis, 1985) and The Terminator (James Cameron, 1984)), and there is no past precisely because everything past is preserved, stored, recordable and, if need be, erased (Paycheck (John Woo, 2003), Total Recall (Paul Verhoeven, 1990)).


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I now turn to some examples of Hollywood multiple films. In an early scene of The Bourne Identity Jason Bourne looks at his reflection in the mirror and demands, in French, German and English, that ‘it stop messing around’ and tell him who he is. Soon enough he is presented with a number of possible identities ‒ literally a stack of foreign passports ‒ from which he must choose the ‘right’ one by a process of elimination of unlikely, narratively uninteresting or morally reprehensible identities. Identity is assumed to be knowable and singular even if it is, for the time being, obscured by other identities. The film proposes that identity cannot be fully erased since it automatically inscribes itself on the body in the form of kinesthetic memory (hence the French title, La mémoire dans la peau). However, Bourne has to go beyond his kinesthetic memory and find out why his body ‘remembers’ certain behaviors in order to discover who he really is. The film presupposes, and reaffirms, the existence of a singular, essential identity, which simply needs to be excavated, remembered, reconstructed and, most importantly, distinguished from other, mistaken or illusory, identities. For example, Bourne is able to recall his first mission (the assassination of the Russian diplomat Nevsky) only via another assassination that is mistakenly attributed to him (the assassination of two CIA agents in Berlin). It is only when he is accused of a murder he did not commit that Bourne recalls the murder he did commit; that is to say, it is only by exposing a series of identities as mistaken or illusory that he is able to access his ‘correct’, singular identity. The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy (Paul Greengrass, 2004), and The Bourne Ultimatum (Paul Greengrass, 2007) all emphasize the individual’s freedom to assert himself, to ‘choose’ his own self regardless of who he actually is. The multiple identities and temporalities that are presupposed by Bourne’s amnesia are simply a distraction on his way to self-affirmation. Dissociative amnesia is a convenient chance for the protagonist to separate himself from his morally questionable past self.59 That the film fails to challenge the notion of a singular, stable identity, and instead merely creates the illusion of a fragmented, indeterminate identity, becomes clear when we consider that Bourne’s ‘moral awakening’ begins, in fact, long before he loses his memory. Even before Bourne loses his memory, he has already made his moral choice by ‘failing’ to shoot the African political leader he has been instructed to assassinate. He has always been ‘a good guy’ and he knows it; all he has to do is to ‘remember’ it in true neo-Platonic fashion. In Unknown (Simon Brand, 2006), five men wake up in an abandoned building in the middle of the desert with no memory of who they are or how

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they got there (later the memory loss is explained as a side effect of inhaling some kind of gas). Gradually, they figure out that they are all involved in a kidnapping, but none of them can remember which are the kidnappers and which are the victims. Predictably, they take turns at staring at their reflections in the mirror, demanding, à la Jason Bourne, ‘Who the fuck are you?’ and, at precisely that moment, having an intense but fragmentary flashback, which (purposefully) reveals little. As they struggle to recall who they are, victims or aggressors, and form arbitrary alliances based on intuition, they gradually begin to piece together what might have happened. The general consensus seems to be that, in the words of one the characters, ‘It is not what we eventually remember that’s going to determine who we are; what we do from now on will.’ The implication is that a criminal can reinvent himself as a victim or even a hero ‒ memory loss is simply a pretext to wipe the slate clean and ask ‘dignifying’ moral questions. However, the film’s ending falls back on the past as essential to the construction of identity: as it turns out, it does matter who one was and what one did in the past. Memory loss is nothing but a convenient ‘window of opportunity’ used by the characters to unburden themselves of their guilt ‒ thus, one of the kidnappers is given a second chance to make ‘the right choice,’ that is to say, not to kill those he has kidnapped. Once he has chosen (through action) to be ‘a good guy’, his memory returns and conveniently corroborates his innocence: he suddenly remembers that he is a police officer working undercover. However we want to read the final twist, which suggests that the character might, in fact, be a criminal posing as a police officer, the point is that the alternation of identities ‒ good guy, bad guy ‒ is premised on the notion of a singular identity, which cannot accommodate any contradiction or multiplicity (one interpretation excludes the other until it is proven wrong and replaced by another interpretation, and so on ad infinitum). Identity begins as a simple story about a group of strangers stranded in a motel during a thunderstorm; the story turns macabre when someone starts killing them off one by one. The strangers are actually mental projections of the different identities ‘housed’ in the mind of a convict (Malcolm) suffering from dissociative identity disorder. Malcolm is undergoing a special treatment, which forces all his identities to confront one another, inevitably leading to a reduction in the number of identities as more powerful identities eliminate weaker ones. If he realizes that all these identities ‒ among them an escaped convict and an ex-detective ‒ are parts of his fractured psyche, and if his ‘good’ alter-ego, the ex-detective, manages to kill his ‘evil’ alter-ego, the escaped convict, Malcolm will be sent to a psychiatric hospital instead of being executed. At the end of the film one of the character’s


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alter-egos, Malcolm as a child, whom we have mistakenly assumed to be harmless, kills Malcolm’s ‘good’ alter-ego, a female prostitute, because he cannot forgive her ‒ just as the young Malcolm never forgave his own mother ‒ for being a prostitute. Producing a clear narrative reason for the confusion and multiplication of identities (childhood trauma), the film uses the multiple to ultimately re-affirm the singular and essentially criminal identity of the protagonist. Session 9 starts out as a realistic film, but gradually reveals that characters we took for real are, in fact, projections of a single host personality, which remains unidentified until the very end of the film. Five asbestos workers are hired to clean up an old mental asylum. The asylum was closed down following a famous case involving a female multiple who, after undergoing memory recovery therapy, was able to recall a series of traumatic sexual experiences from her childhood; however, subsequent medical exams proved that her ‘recovered memories’ were, in fact, made up. As relationships between the workers become strained and strange things start happening, one of the men comes upon old records of nine therapy sessions with a woman, Mary, suffering from a multiple personality disorder. Gradually, and mostly through editing, we realize that four of the men are actually voices within the mind of the fifth man, a multiple (though we don’t know which one of the five he is), who must ‘wake up’ or recall who he really is (like the protagonists in Identity, Unknown, Vanilla Sky and The Bourne Identity). The story unfolds as a recovered memory, that is to say, the premise is that Gordon will discover something about himself and about the past he has suppressed. However, the analogy between Mary’s case and Gordon’s case on which the whole story depends (since it is through that analogy that we find out that Gordon is also a multiple) cannot shake our memory ‒ pun intended ‒ of that early scene in the film in which the very notion of recovered memory was exposed as sham. Identity and Session 9 exemplify the de-mythologization craze in Hollywood cinema insofar as they suggest that multiple identity is ultimately unreal: the reduction of multiple personality to a singular self is represented as a process of self-awakening, de-mythologization or enlightenment. Although in both films the protagonists are actually multiples, the emphasis is not on the medical aspect of multiple personality but rather on the thriller genre’s clever appropriation of multiple personality’s particular narrative structure. In other words, the gaps in memory and knowledge characteristic of multiple personality are put in the service of the genre: since a multiple is, by definition, unaware of all his alters, an alter can be conveniently summoned at the very last moment (as it is in Identity and Session 9) ‒ a

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sort of an updated deus ex machina ‒ to solve the narrative puzzle in an appropriately surprising and thrilling manner. Hollywood f ilms often draw on the discontinuity constitutive of memory to introduce multiplicity in the narrative; ironically, they also rely on memory to reduce this confusing multiplicity to a single reality or truth. The Forgotten is a case in point. The film follows a woman’s quest to uncover what actually happened to her son who died in a plane crash. Her psychiatrist diagnoses her with paramnesia (a distortion of memory in which fantasy and objective experience are confused). Apparently, Telly lost her son a year ago, in a miscarriage, but the loss was so traumatic that she convinced herself her son was not dead and invented a whole new life for him. While Telly’s paramnesia is central to the dramatic premise ‒ everything depends on whether or not she is suffering from paramnesia, which would make some of her memories real and others invented ‒ the film eventually denies the alternate realities produced by her paramnesia and affirms only one of them as real. Ironically, having used memory as a destabilizing narrative device, the film restores memory as the single most reliable source of knowledge by making Telly’s first memory of her son ‒ her memory of him in her womb ‒ the final, uncontestable evidence of her son’s existence. The ending sweeps aside the complicated alternate worlds structure constructed thus far, attributing it all to an alien conspiracy: Telly must simply ‘wake up’ or ‘see through’ multiple deceptive realities (the work of aliens) in order to uncover ‘the real reality’ (in which children don’t die but are simply hidden away for a while). Vanilla Sky provides another example of the de-mythologization craze in Hollywood cinema insofar as it celebrates the self-awakening of its protagonist, David. The premise of the film is that David can become a free agent only if he wakes up from his lucid dream. It is implied that the ultimate, informed choice he makes (once he becomes aware of the constructed nature of his world) is the only real choice, the only free choice. However, saying ‘I am dreaming’ does not necessarily mean that I am awake. Moreover, if we follow the logic of the film’s narrative structure, we have to conclude that David never wakes up from his dream because the very process of waking up must be part of the lucid dream.60 Even if we accept that David does wake up, his awakening is nothing but a self-fulfilling prophesy: while the waking dream program does everything possible to conceal from him the fact that he is living a dream, his unconscious is, from the very beginning, trying to become conscious by means of inventing the figure of the psychiatrist (who exists only in David’s lucid dream). By inventing the psychiatrist, David’s unconscious incriminates itself insofar as the


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presence of such a figure presupposes that the person is hiding something from himself. Thus, by an odd gesture of doubling ‒ the dream points to its own unreality by inventing the typical framework (psychiatrist ‒ patient) within which dreams are analyzed ‒ the unreal manages to reconstruct imaginatively the moment of its own appearance, the moment when David was made to forget that he is dead. Although the film takes the form of a flashback ‒ David recounting his memories to the psychiatrist ‒ it is only an imaginary flashback, since in reality David is not in a penitentiary and there is no psychiatrist. (Eventually it becomes clear that David did not kill his girlfriend, who simply died in a car accident; there has been no murder and no trial and there is no reason for him to be in a psychiatric penitentiary.) However, since the contract he signs with Life Extension (LE) offers him the opportunity to write the script for his own life, we must assume that everything that happens in the film must have been his choice, including the imaginary flashback he has in the presence of the imaginary psychiatrist. Thus, he is dreaming, but at the same time he knows that he is dreaming, and from the very beginning of the film he wants to wake up from the dream, which is why he invents the person most likely to help him wake up, a psychiatrist. Since all events must have been invented by David, he must have unconsciously planned his eventual awakening from the dream; the process of de-mythologization (revealing the constructed nature of reality) is a myth (the subject himself constructs the means to expose the constructed nature of reality). At the end of the film, the helpful LE staff inform David of the specific point at which his lucid dream began (the ‘splice’, a term appropriately borrowed from the technical vocabulary of film editing). David is, supposedly, dead, his memory of his death erased, an important piece of information of which he is, once again, supposed to have no recollection. And yet throughout the film he flashes back to real events preceding the ‘splice’, with the exception of the most crucial event, his own death. In other words, the film assumes memory is not co-extensive with consciousness: apparently, you can remember things that happened before your own death. Films like Vanilla Sky, Memory, and The Return cleverly appropriate various aspects of idealistic philosophy (Bergson’s, to be more specific) to reaffirm our belief in agency. Matter and Memory (published in 1896, during the period Hacking associates with the proliferation of multiples and with the birth of the new sciences of memory), in which Bergson describes memory as essentially impersonal, multiple and infinite, anticipates the de-pathologization of multiple/dissociated personality and the reconceptualization of the self as multiple rather than singular and internally unified.61 Individual memory,

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Bergson argues, is merely a narrow selection within a vast and inexhaustible pure, impersonal memory: individual memory (most often identified with voluntary memory) is constituted through a process of ‘dissociation’ from Pure Memory (which can be attributed to no one in particular). It is precisely this notion of memory as essentially disembodied and impersonal that informs a great many Hollywood films of the multiple, especially those dealing with some kind of memory dysfunction. The past, Bergson insisted again and again, is not dead: it preserves itself automatically in the present, which it can infiltrate at any moment (hence the connection to Freud’s ‘uncanny’). Since the past is not integrated into one’s consciousness, it is not individualized: it is not my past but an impersonal past that belongs to no one. Films like Memory and The Return extend the multiple personality model to become an inter-subjective one. As we saw, the multiple personality debate demonstrated the obsolescence of the idea of a transcendental self, refiguring the self as a field populated by multiple selves or alters, each with its own personality and each with varying degrees of awareness of other alters. This model makes it impossible to continue speaking of ‘personal’ experiences or memories insofar as some of the multiple’s experiences are registered only by some alters, others by other alters, certain memories are stored while others lost, certain experiences are shared while others are limited to particular alters, and so on. When this model of personality is projected onto the inter-subjective level (recall that Antze and Lambek read the reappearance of the multiple personality model as an attempt to revive the notion of ‘community’), it becomes possible to speak of a common memory from which individual memories are dissociated and whose relationship to that common memory is analogous to that of alters within the mind of a multiple. And just as the memory of a multiple can no longer be called strictly personal, because it is fragmented and indeterminate, so the memories of individual people are not strictly personal either but can ‘travel’ between people and become embodied in this or that person.62 The Return ‒ tagline ‘The past never dies. It kills’ ‒ and Memory (2006) ‒ tagline ‘Sometimes memories can kill’ ‒ rely on the Bergsonian idea of memory as essentially inter-subjective and impersonal. Not only can you remember things that happened before your own death (Vanilla Sky), you can also remember things that happened long before you were born: at least, this is the premise of Memory. In Memory Taylor Briggs, a medical researcher studying Alzheimer’s, stumbles upon a special powder used by an Indian tribe. The powder induces so-called ‘sacred dreams,’ allowing the Indians to see the past through the eyes of their dead relatives. When Taylor accidentally spills some of the magic powder on his hands, he begins to be


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haunted by visions and memories, which are clearly not his own but which he cannot yet attribute to anyone in particular. Like The Butterfly Effect, The Return and Memory borrow the symptomatic language of multiple personality ‒ lost time, blackouts, amnesia, childhood trauma ‒ without the illness itself (Taylor is not a multiple), though they also modify it: in both films, the person recalling the traumatic experience is not the one who actually experienced it. In both films, as well, the abuse is displaced several times. In The Return the protagonist, Joanna, remembers someone else’s traumatic sexual experience, which happened when Joanna herself was a child, that is to say, the film follows the prototype of multiple personality (childhood abuse) but divides it between two characters ‒ the child Joanna and the woman whose memory of sexual abuse is transferred to Joanna and repressed, as though she herself had been its victim ‒ rather than having the abuse split a single victim into multiple personalities. In Memory the victim is actually double: the original victim was Taylor’s mother, who was kidnapped and raped by a man, whom she eventually killed. Upon her release from the psychiatric asylum she assumes the identity of the angel of death, a curious quasi-mythological figure who was, we are told, cast out of heaven and who has taken it upon himself to look over young girls and protect their innocence. This protector turns out to be a serial killer: she kidnaps and kills little girls, locking them up in a little room behind her closet and making casts of their faces. Taylor is able to track down the serial killer, his own mother (who pretends she is not his mother, convincing a female friend of hers to secretly adopt her son, the son of the man who raped her) by reliving her memories. We could read Memory as the latest attempt to reinvest post-secular reality with some form of quasi-religious faith or spirituality by disguising it as a new science: genetic memory. (This is true even of a blockbuster like Déjà vu, which proves that time travel is possible not because the technology for it exists but because of a ‘leap of faith’ … even if it is a leap of faith in technology!) Since any notion of a good-natured, omniscient God who sees and punishes every evil deed would strike modern day skeptics as incorrigibly naïve, belief has to be stripped of its religious connotations. It is not God who sees every injustice; genetic memory does the job just as well, even better, in fact, because it carries the favorable stamp of science. The film pushes an idea of genetic memory strongly reminiscent of the Bergsonian idea of Pure Memory. The past is never dead, Bergson tells us ‒ it is alive, flowing like a river beneath the present and capable of erupting in the midst of it at any moment. The past is not dead, Memory chimes in, for everything that happens is automatically stored in the giant bank of genetic

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memory, which we carry within us until the moment of our own birth and which can suddenly re-emerge into our lives at any given moment. Like Memory, The Return relies on the Bergsonian idea of inter-subjective memory. Joanna’s memory is not her own ‒ she keeps recalling/reliving another woman’s (a dead woman’s) memories. Although she doesn’t suffer from multiple personality, Joanna exhibits some of the familiar symptoms (blackouts, memory loss). The Return and Memory are reminiscent of The Sixth Sense, but they also depart from it in a significant way. In The Sixth Sense, we find out that the protagonist is dead, but we still see his memories projected on the screen. Conversely, in the two other films, it is not the dead character that does the recalling, but a completely different character. In this new version of ‘invasion of the body snatchers’ ‒ here modified as ‘the invasion of the memory snatchers’ ‒ Joanna is ‘taken over’, her memory ‘invaded’, by another. She is merely a vehicle for the return of the dead woman’s memories: the film drives home this point by letting the dead woman gradually displace Joanna both narratively and visually (in the final sequence). While Memory tries to come up with some quasi-scientific explanation for the transfer of memory, The Return expects us to believe in the possibility of a spiritual transference of memory as a result of pure physical proximity (i.e. the proximity of the two cars, one with Joanna and the other with the dead woman, at the moment of the car crash). The film does not offer any explanation as to how, specifically, the two memories are ‘compounded’; whether the other woman’s memory neatly replaces Joanna’s memory or is ‘added’ to it. When she goes back to her childhood home, Joanna discovers that everything she thought was hers is in fact an echo or a reproduction of the dead woman’s life and memories: her childhood drawings, every object in her childhood room, are modeled on the exact same objects in the dead woman’s room. We are to believe that the girl, under the influence of the dead woman’s memories, wanted her own room decorated in exactly the same way. There is nothing to tell us that these objects were not already in her room before the car accident. We are left wondering which of these two rooms echoes which, and why it matters. Despite the obviously central role of memory in The Return, this is not a film about memory and identity. The lack of chronology does not seek to convey the fragmentary work of individual memory but simply to create obstacles to narrative comprehension: when the pieces of the puzzle finally fall together, we understand why Joanna has been acting so strangely, but we don’t know her any better. The film relies on a series of echoes and repetitions of visual details that cannot be assigned a specific point of view or a


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specific time. There is no stable point of reference from which Joanna recalls the past. For example, in the opening sequence, the 11-year-old Joanna hides under a table in an amusement park and relives the memory of the dead woman right before she is murdered, an event which has not happened yet, given the timeline of the film. As we learn later, the memories of the dead woman ‘invaded’ Joanna’s memory after the car crash; that is to say, the girl cannot be reliving the memories of the woman who is still alive. The next scene reveals that the scene we have just seen represents the memory of the now older Joanna, who is standing in front of the mirror (the typical set-up for any scene in which a protagonist searches for their identity). She is in the process of remembering something that hasn’t happened yet (the other woman dies after the amusement park scene). There are various ways in which we can read these films’ preoccupation with the impersonality of memory. We could perhaps see it as a kind of ‘metaphysical altruism’ ‒ indeed, the story of The Return is premised on the idea of solidarity between women as victims of sexual abuse. As I suggested earlier, the multiplicity epidemic has been interpreted as an attempt to resurrect the collective within the personal. The Return, which treats memory as impersonal and inter-subjective, confirms this interpretation. By imagining memory as something that travels between individuals, as a sort of a secret, intangible link between people, the film revives the notion of community, and, more importantly, not the kind of community built upon a shared memory (e.g. the nation) but a community of strangers, of people who have nothing in common, except, as in The Return, a shared problem (abuse of women). Since close relationships do not seem to be possible in the real world (consider Joanna’s awkward, alienated relationship with her father), the next best thing is a community of the dead or a community of spirits; a community reflected, for instance, in the ability of the dead to communicate through the living. Unlike Donnie Darko, in which time travel cannot change the past, or The Butterfly Effect 2 (John Leonetti, 2006), which does grant the protagonist this power but only at a great cost (his life), Déjà vu, a fairy tale of second chances, is quite optimistic. In Déjà vu a ferry filled with crewmen from the USS Nimitz and their families is blown up in New Orleans on Mardi Gras. ATF agent Doug Carlin is brought in to assist in the crime investigation, and gets attached to an experimental FBI surveillance unit, one that uses a time-warping technology to look back into the past. It is difficult to think of another film, let alone an action film, that offers such a literal illustration of Bergson’s idea of the co-existence of the past and the present. Despite several jargon-laden explanations of how the time-warping

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program (appropriately called ‘Snow White’, with all the connotations of waking up the dead, of second chances) works, the film enthusiastically suggests that ‘maybe it’s not just physics.’ Even though we recognize that we can’t circumvent the laws of physics ‒ for example, it is physically impossible to change the past, and a man cannot live in two different realities at the same time ‒ perhaps there is a spiritual way to beat physical laws, to let man live in both realities just long enough to find a way to make the reality with the happy ending take precedence over the one with the unhappy ending. The theory of branching times is used precisely to that end: introduce a significant enough event in the linear flow of time, and you create a new branch (the one with the happy ending). The old one (the one that ends with the explosion) can continue parallel to it, but most likely it ceases to exist.63 Doug dies in the alternative reality created through his time travel, but then he is miraculously resurrected in the same reality (the one in which his love interest is saved), thus violating the law of branching universes, according to which the alternate reality runs parallel to the old reality but eventually displaces it completely. Regardless of the logical and ontological implications of time-warping ‒ regardless of the multiple temporalities to which it gives rise ‒ in the end there is only one reality, the one in which both Doug and the woman he loves are saved. While The Butterfly Effect 2 at least acknowledges that time-warping must have some real consequences, that is, someone has to die ‒ whether it is Nick or his girlfriend ‒ Déjà vu rejects such an ending as a ‘downer’: ‘both shall live’, the film promises, even if that demands sacrificing the basic philosophical premise of the film and making a mockery of the theory of branching universes. The films discussed so far reinvest their protagonists with a sense of agency by reducing the confusing multiplicity of realities, identities or temporalities to an essential, singular reality. Another group of f ilms exhibiting the Hollywood chronotope approaches multiple realities therapeutically, reducing them to strategies for coping with psychological trauma. The Machinist plunges us into the maze of fantasies, hallucinations and suppressed memories of the insomniac Trevor Reznik, a sickly-looking man working in a machine shop. Although the film blurs the distinctions between the real and the imagined, the present and the past, the conscious and the unconscious, it eventually offers a neat explanation for Trevor’s paranoia and schizophrenia. The strange man (Ivan) Trevor believes is pursuing him, but whose existence everyone else denies, turns out to be Trevor himself: Trevor ‘created’ his alter-ego ‘Ivan’ in order to blame him for a murder Trevor himself committed (he killed a little boy in a hit-and-run accident). The multiplication of realities is a result of


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Trevor’s failure to fully repress his guilt and, at the same time, a symptom of atonement. Stay repeats the same formula. A New York psychiatrist becomes obsessed with one of his patients, Henry, a disturbed student who intends to commit suicide in three days’ time. As the psychiatrist tries to track down his patient and prevent his suicide, he begins to doubt his own sanity and drifts into a surreal, hallucinatory world where the dead and the living cross paths. The ending reveals that this whole story of multiple realities and confused identities was composed of the partially perceived, partially remembered, and partially fantasized images that happen to cross Henry’s mind in the last several minutes before his death, and his parents’ death, in a car accident for which he feels guilty. Once again, the multiplication of realities is both a symptom of guilt and a form of self-therapy the dying man practices retrospectively. The Butterfly Effect offers yet another take on the same dramatic premise. The story is told from the point of view of a protagonist who, we discover at the end of the film, is actually dead. The whole story world is revealed, retrospectively, as entirely unreal, existing only in the protagonist’s mind. The problem of multiple realities is treated as essentially psychological and its resolution as therapeutic: despite the fact that Evan was never actually born (we discover at the end of the film that he was stillborn), the film goes out of its way to explain the psychological reasons for Evan’s mysterious blackouts (which produce multiple versions of the past): he invented them in order to deal with the guilt he feels for accidentally killing a woman and her baby. Nick Larson, the protagonist of The Butterfly Effect 2, regularly ‘loses time’ and experiences blackouts, which allows him to travel through time as he tries to deal with the consequences of a traumatic experience (his girlfriend’s death in a car crash). The film borrows the symptomatic language of multiple personality while remaining indifferent to questions of etiology. Here multiple personality is not a medical condition, but a metaphor for the character’s difficulty in dealing with a traumatic experience, a defense mechanism he invents in order to deny the reality of what has happened to his girlfriend. His circumstances might change (every time he changes a detail in the past, he provokes a change in the present, or rather, what would be the future from the point of view of the past) ‒ he might be a powerless employee in one scenario or the boss in another ‒ but his personality remains the same. There are no multiple personalities here, only multiple scenarios in which Nick, through the power of wishful thinking, inscribes himself. Like David, the protagonist of Vanilla Sky, Nick demonstrates a considerable awareness

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of his existential confusion: he embarks diligently upon Internet research on multiple personality and post-traumatic stress disorder. At the same time, like Lenny, the protagonist of Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000), even as he acknowledges the real source of his confusion ‒ post-traumatic stress ‒ Nick refuses to attribute his ‘time travels’ to it. After a while, he simply gets used to traveling through time and waking up in new places with no memory of how, and when, he got there ‒ and he continues to function in remarkably rational ways in all of these forking pasts. When all his attempts to correct the past bring him to naught, he chooses the only version of the past in which his girlfriend does not die, the one in which he dies instead of her. We are expected to believe that the whole film is Nick’s flashback right before his death (as in Stay); but then we have to wonder why, if he was the one dying (true), he flashes back to an opposite scenario, in which his girlfriend is the one dying (false). Conversely, if the flashback is true (she is the one dying), then his death in the end must be false, just another alternate reality with no referent from which we can view it (it belongs to no one). In the final analysis, the film grants Nick the agency and freedom to decide his fate, to deal with the trauma that caused the emergence of alternate realities, but his ‘self-therapy’ demands his own death and thus cancels, retrospectively, the alternating of realities. The Mothman Prophecies, the story of a man trying to cope with an unexplainable car accident that caused his wife’s death, bestows on the protagonist, John Klein, powers of pre-cognition, which help him predict disasters and save people. The strange premonitions, prophecies and encounters, which Klein experiences as an increasing fragmentation of his identity and reality, function as a kind of unconscious self-therapy: he eventually realizes that the radically alternate reality the mothman seems to represent is actually his own alter-ego, a manifestation of his guilt for his wife’s death, for which he tries to atone by saving others from certain death.64 Dragonfly tells the story of a doctor dealing with the death of his wife in a Red Cross bus accident in Venezuela. When several of her former patients tell Joe about their ‘meetings’ with her during near-death experiences, he begins to believe his wife might not be dead. Although the film suggests the existence of an infinite number of multiple realities ‒ ‘grades of consciousness’ between being fully alert and being dead ‒ these alternate realities are in the end reduced to strategies for coping with the death of a loved one. In all these examples, the multiplication and apparent confusion of realities, identities and temporalities is given a clear (usually subjective) narrative reason (guilt, love, personal suffering, and so forth).


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‘How well do you know the one you love?’ This is how the DVD release of The Astronaut’s Wife pitches this science fiction/suspense thriller, which presents the problem of identity as a matter of distinguishing the ‘right’ from the ‘wrong’ identity. During a two-man mission to outer space, NASA’s ground control loses contact with the two astronauts for two minutes. Upon the astronauts’ return to earth, one of them dies under mysterious circumstances and his wife commits a suicide. The other astronaut leaves NASA and relocates with his wife, Jillian, to New York, where he takes up an executive position in a company producing special fighter planes. Jillian begins to suspect that her husband is not really her husband. It is eventually revealed that during the two minutes the astronauts lost communication with ground control, an alien being took possession of their bodies, ‘erasing them as though they were tapes and recording its own message on them’. Jillian fails to kill the alien who has taken possession of her husband; instead, the alien takes possession of her body. Although the action in The Astronaut’s Wife takes place in the present, retrospection is essential to the narrative, especially to the confusion of identities at the center of the film. Multiplicity ‒ or, in this case, duplicity ‒ is derived entirely from the retrospective structure of the film, which relies on repetition and double entendre to make what characters say acquire a new meaning when their lines are recalled or repeated in a different context. The film is similar to The Mothman Prophecies and The Forgotten, not only in that it is impossible to determine temporally Jillian’s transformation (to assign it to a specific point in the narrative),65 but also in that the reasons for that transformation cannot be established conclusively. Jillian’s suspicions that her husband is not himself can be justified by the film’s ending; however, they could just as well be attributed to her pregnancy. In one of the scenes, we see her attending a pregnant women’s support group meeting at which the women vent their frustration with their husbands’ inability to understand what their wives are going through. Jillian’s paranoia could be an exaggerated manifestation of her frustration with her husband’s alienation from her, in which case the duplicity of identities the film explores is reduced to a symptom of Jillian’s personal psychological (prenatal) crisis. In The Number 23, Walter Sparrow, a dog-catcher, becomes obsessed with a novel about obsession (an obsession with the number 23). Walter becomes increasingly aware of the eerie similarities between the life of the novel’s protagonist, a detective by the name of Fingerling, and his own life. The fictional character of the detective Fingerling proves to be an appropriate unconscious/fictional surrogate for Walter. Fingerling’s function is similar to that of the fictional psychiatrist in Vanilla Sky: just as David invents his

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psychiatrist to help himself wake up from the lucid dream, so Walter invents Fingerling to help himself investigate/recall the murder he himself committed thirteen years earlier. Like other films in this vein (the Bourne trilogy, The Machinist, Stay), The Number 23 suggests that the painful process of recalling a horrible past, or retrieving a repressed memory, is a form of atonement. Although this pervasive obsession with remembering might appear as an obsession with bearing witness, doing justice, and atoning for one’s sins, there is so much emphasis on the process of recall (which takes up the whole film) that in the end the painful, even traumatic process of recalling replaces, or outweighs in importance, the original trauma. In this film, as in Premonition, that which creates the problem also provides the solution, in the manner of a self-fulfilling prophesy: the obsession with the number 23 leads Walter to murder, but it is also a coping strategy (only by recalling his own obsession with the number can Walter atone for his sin). Despite the confusion of multiple possible scenarios ‒ events and characters straddle different ontological and narratives frames (reality, dream, fantasy, memory) freely swapping places ‒ ultimately, this multiplicity of scenarios is reduced to a childhood trauma (Walter’s father’s suicide and Walter’s desperate attempts to comprehend this event in the absence of any rational explanation: his father, an accountant obsessed with numbers, did not leave a suicide note, only the number 23). The sole reason for the multiplication of realities, identities and temporalities is to invest the character with a greater sense of agency, with more choices that would allow him to redeem himself from being a murderer to becoming a worthy father and husband and a worthy citizen (he turns himself in). ‘Some choices are easy, some aren’t,’ Walter muses in the film’s concluding voice-over. ‘Those are the really important ones, the ones that define us as people. … Thirteen years ago I made the wrong choice. I had to put it right.’ The protagonist of The Number 23 declares wearily that ‘Time is just numbers, with a meaning attached to them.’ The screenwriter of Premonition couldn’t agree more. In the special commentary included in the DVD edition of the film, he tells us how he got inspired to write the story. ‘What if,’ he asked, ‘the days of the week were like playing cards, and you threw them up in the air, and wherever they landed that’s how the whole thing would play out?’ Time-warping or time-travel, and the multiple branches of time it gives rise to (in one branch, Linda reconciles with her husband, in another she doesn’t forgive his betrayal and lets him die, and so forth), are used as strategies for coping with marital problems. As the film’s writer explains, ‘The strange phenomenon of premonition provides the character with an insight into what’s going on in her life at this time that otherwise


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she wouldn’t have had a glimpse of.’ The film conflates past, present and future, leaving no stable point of reference ‒ in time ‒ from which to follow the story. Any element in the evolving narrative can be, at one and the same time, a foreshadowing and a flashback; every moment of story time can be, at one and the same time, in the past (‘Honey, Jim is already dead’) and in the future (Jim is about to die, in the future, and his wife can prevent his death). This is a familiar ‘nesting’ or ‘Russian doll’ narrative, except that we cannot identify the biggest doll (that is, the outer narrative frame within which the other frames are nested). When Linda senses she is on the verge of madness, she dutifully makes an appointment with a priest, who instructs her that, ‘it is never too late to decide what is important in your life and to fight for it.’ The odd metaphysical phenomenon of which we had assumed she was a victim ‒ premonition ‒ actually grants her the power to interpret events in whatever way she wishes, specifically to imagine a reconciliation with her ever more distant husband and to justify, retrospectively (or should we say both retrospectively and prospectively ‒ as if to be on the safe side) what seemed to be a failing marriage. The premonition is not an objective fact that happens to her, but a symptom of her marital problems and, at the same time, a solution to those problems. In other words, we see here the familiar narrative pattern of a self-fulfilling prophecy parading as ‘de-mythologization’ or ‘enlightenment’. Finally, the Hollywood chronotope uses multiple realities to construct an elaborate self-referential narrative structure. Jack Starks, the protagonist of The Jacket, an amnesiac soldier just returned from the first Persian Gulf War, is tried for the murder of a police officer. He is sent to a hospital for the criminally insane where he is subjected to a harrowing ‘treatment’, which involves putting him in a straight jacket and locking him up in a drawer to force him to remember what really happened. The drawer turns out to be a sort of a mini ‘time-machine’ that transports Jack to various points in time in the future, from where, armed with the foreknowledge of his own impending death, he struggles to reconstruct the events leading up to it. The confusing mixture of different narrative times serves a purely decorative and therapeutic function: the film hints at a political allegory, but really it is far more interested in the purely formal pleasure of a looped, self-referential narrative which ends precisely where it began, while, at the same time, allowing Jack to redeem (have a therapeutic effect on) other characters. In Suspect Zero the fragmentation, multiplication and mirroring of identities (on the one hand, the FBI agent’s identification with Suspect Zero, an elite special agent who might or might not be a serial killer; on the other hand, Suspect Zero’s identification with the victims of the serial killers he is

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responsible for tracking down) is used to create a self-referential structure decorated with a clever framing device, which reveals that ‘Suspect Zero’ has foreseen his own death with the help of the same remote viewing skills he has been using to capture criminal offenders. In The Village a group of people who have suffered the violent death of a loved one meet at a counseling center and decide to establish a commune, where they can live a simple, innocent life away from violence, temptation and corruption. All of this, however, is revealed only at the end of the film when we realize that the action is not taking place in the nineteenth century and that the villagers’ ‘commune’ is actually built within a National Park. The seemingly otherworldly evil presence haunting the village (‘those of whom we don’t speak’) turns out to be simply the village idiot dressed up in a scary Halloween-like costume. The main rationale behind the commune’s voluntary self-segregation from the real world, which results in the establishment of the hauntingly anachronistic (temporally displaced) village, is purely therapeutic.

The Therapeutic Discourse of the Hollywood Multiple Film In The Passion of Ansel Bourne: Multiple Personality in American Culture, Kenny relies on a concept originating in medical anthropology, ‘idiom of distress,’ to demonstrate the socially constructed nature of multiple personality. The idiom not only describes an experience, but also creates it. As Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann argue in The Social Construction of Reality, ‘psychology always presupposes cosmology’ (quoted in Keeny 13); that is to say, theories of identity reflect a society’s overall interpretation of reality. Kenny argues that we should speak not of the ‘discovery’ of the unconscious but of its creation: ‘the creation of the unconscious as a cultural rather than a psychological fact’ (15).66 In the nineteenth century, the hidden social agenda behind the invention/construction of multiple personality had to do with the changing gender roles in the new urban culture: women were far more likely to be diagnosed as ‘multiples’ than men, an imbalance representative of the contradictory social roles attributed to women at that time. Later, multiple personality became associated with childhood sexual abuse. Thus the structure of the family, the nature of work, and the problems surrounding these have always informed the discourse of multiple personality, which dramatizes the conflicts between socially incompatible roles. If the hidden agenda behind the invention and popularization of multiple personality in the nineteenth century had to do with changing gender


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roles, and from the middle of the century to the present, with childhood trauma, what is the social agenda behind the present cinematic epidemic of the multiple? One could perhaps argue that Hollywood cinema of the multiple simply extends one of the generic characteristics of the American science fiction genre ‒ the preoccupation with other worlds, other planets ‒ beyond the limits of the genre, projecting it onto other genres that are often semantically distant from it. While science fiction films set up our world in opposition to other possible worlds or planets, Hollywood cinema of the multiple brings those other multiple alternate worlds ‘down to earth’ and locates them within the self or within reality itself. We could even single out a particular theme within the science fiction genre ‒ the invasion theme ‒ that has been gradually dissociated from the genre. The invasion theme, which dominated the ‘golden age’ of American science fiction cinema (the 1950s) can be seen as the American cinematic equivalent of the nineteenth-century double motif in European literature of the fantastic and in European gothic fiction. Stripped of their historical, political and cultural connotations, invasion, doubling, possession and multiplication (along with their attending paranoia) operate as metaphors underwriting a common rhetoric of metaphysical or ontological falsification, as well as anticipating Hollywood cinema of the multiple. If science fiction cinema’s fascination with other worlds and with space travel reflects our existential loneliness, then the ‘domestication’ (bringing those outer worlds ‘down to earth’ in the form of alternate realities) and ‘virtualization’ of outer worlds (extra-planetary worlds are replaced with virtual worlds) is symptomatic of a different type of ‘malaise’, an attempt to overcompensate for the disturbing sense of metaphysical insufficiency that currently passes for ‘a sense of reality.’ Ironically, Hollywood cinema of the multiple addresses this sense of metaphysical insufficiency by ‘pumping up’ our skepticism, as if to suggest that only by doubting reality can we congratulate ourselves for ‘waking up’ from the dream, that only by mystifying reality can we ‘demystify’ it and rest assured in our self-enlightenment. In sum, a common premise of this cinema is that the protagonist has been duped, tricked or manipulated ‒ he must, therefore, ‘wake up to reality.’67 But what does it mean to ‘wake up’? In a totally mediated world in which all our desires and needs have been produced for us, even as we continue to believe they are our own, the flippant admission that our world is a construct, that perhaps nothing is real, perpetuates the even more dangerous illusion that merely becoming conscious of the illusion-making mechanisms controlling us is enough to eliminate them. In this respect, films dealing with multiple realities, identities or temporalities participate in the ‘de-

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mythologization craze’ in American cinema. The multiple film claims to de-mythologize the Cartesian notion of a self-transparent, self-spectating subject and the notion of an ontologically stable, transparent reality, only to relapse into a mythology of agency, free will (for example, in ‘resurrection’ films like The Jacket and Vanilla Sky) and an ontological certainty in the singular nature of reality. The de-mythologization craze in American cinema could be seen as a delayed side-effect of the shift, at the turn of the twentieth century, from ‘the art of memory’, understood as a techné, a knowing how, to the new sciences of memory, a knowing what, from surface knowledge (Foucault’s connaissance) to depth knowledge (Foucault’s savoir), from ‘milieux de memoire’ to ‘lieux de memoire’, from memory as ‘a context, a landscape inhabited’ to memory as a ‘“site,” a monument visited’ (Pierre Nora quoted in Antze and Lambek, ‘Introduction’ xiii).68 Many of the films discussed here draw on the discontinuity constitutive of memory to introduce multiplicity in the narrative. If there are two different types of memory obsessions ‒ 1) the obsession with not forgetting anything, with inputting and storing every piece of raw, immediate experience, and 2) the obsession with unblocking something assumed to have been blocked or hidden, or with revealing a secret, a hidden truth essential to one’s identity ‒ American cinema of the multiple exhibits the symptoms of the second type of obsession, ‘a kind of parody of the Enlightenment will to truth’ (xxvii), insofar as the very notion of self-deception presupposes a Truth beneath the fiction. The majority of multiple films that deal with some kind of memory dysfunction are more interested in the problem of blockage and access to memory than in the act of recalling as an immediate, spontaneous experience or, for that matter, in the particular content of the experience that has to be retrieved. The films’ narrative structure confirms this: very little time is usually spent on presenting what has been lost or forgotten, and the films quickly move on to the retrieval process. For instance, we never witness first-hand the mother-child connection in The Forgotten (it is suggested only through flashbacks); likewise, Memento focuses on getting access to memory rather than on the nature and significance of what is being remembered. Films in which the multiple is the result of memory dysfunction or memory loss ‒ for example, Memento, Vanilla Sky, The Sixth Sense, The Forgotten, The Butterfly Effect and others ‒ appear to follow the idea established by Ribot and his peers that precisely that which has been forgotten constitutes the most essential aspect of identity. However, although forgetting is essential to these films, the forgotten does not reveal, even after it has been recalled, something about the identity of the characters. For instance, although at first glance The Butterfly Effect and its sequel seem to be textbook examples


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of the process of re-inscribing past actions under new descriptions,69 the point of these re-inscriptions is not to reveal something about the protagonist, but merely to play around with narrative structure. One cannot help but wonder to what extent the current obsession with what are essentially ‘time travel’ experiences might be seen as a reflection of the fatigue and ennui of postmodern urban life. I would argue that the numerous experiments with non-linear narrative time are not a symptom of the increasingly dense, maze-like nature of our temporal existence as much as they reveal its repetitious, boring nature. Responding to our desperate desire to escape the predictable, mechanical nature of our entrenched, repetitious, habituated lives, filmmakers have begun to recast, and thus redeem, predictability as something out of the ordinary (for example, premonition) so that our daily experience might appear not automated and banal but, in fact, unpredictable and chaotic. The obsession with premonition, déjà-vu and self-fulfilling prophecy artificially infuses our daily existence with a sense of semantic depth or meaningfulness, making us believe that our banal existence, which appears meaningless on the surface, has actually always already been waiting to be justified by a specific event in the future (premonition) or the past (déjà-vu), or somewhere in-between (self-fulfilling prophecy). Once that special event has retrospectively made our life (and the film) meaningful, the meaninglessness of life (and of the film) will appear to be just an illusion. In other words, it is all a question of timing: we shall be saved from time by ‒ ironically ‒ time. Overwhelmed and constantly bombarded by sense impressions in the sensibly and semiotically bloated contemporary environment, we have gradually lost our ability to distinguish between them. Faced with an onslaught of myriads of simultaneous impressions, each aggressively claiming our attention, our only defense strategy is to treat them all as one common source of irritation, rather than exhausting ourselves psychologically by responding to each one individually. As our minds try to defend themselves in the most efficient way, they begin to ignore spatial and temporal distinctions and treat all external stimuli as basically the same. From this point of view, experiences like déjà-vu and premonition are not ‘magical’ or special experiences that are only had by certain kinds of people; rather, such experiences reflect our increasing inability to register the new in our lives. The sense that events in the present have already happened to us (déjà-vu) or that we already know what is going to happen to us (premonition) suggests that we have reached a point where we experience everything as mere repetition. The appealing ‘magical’ elasticity of narrative time conveniently disguises the fixed, repetitious nature of existential time.

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What I described above amounts to an attempt to import what is essentially a religious worldview ‒ the religious belief that the ultimate truth of our existence will be revealed at some vague point in the future, not in this finite life ‒ into our secular, technologized existence. Münsterberg’s explanation of the social conditions that gave rise to the anti-intellectualism and superstition of his time ‒ the stress on materialism and business success left the soul unsatisfied so that deeper spiritual longings were pushed to mystical extremes (Psychology and Social Sanity 134-135) ‒ are very much applicable to our own time. The experiments with the temporal structure of contemporary films can also be seen as a reflection of our unsatisfied spiritual longings, of our longing for meaning. In order to fulfill these spiritual longings, the pure experience of time is transformed into a charged spiritual experience which lends our ordinary, bland existence a level of profundity or meaningfulness: to have a spiritual experience no longer means to communicate with some extra-human power, but rather to feel time ‒ to feel it passing, stopping, freezing, reversing, and so forth. In this respect, we can view contemporary films experimenting with time as religious films in disguise: they attempt to distract us from the banality of our daily existence by securing a modicum of meaning in our experience of narrative time, which our experience of existential time no longer provides.

The European Chronotope of the Multiple The Hollywood chronotope’s playful skepticism is not to be confused with the crisis of meaning underlying the European chronotope of the multiple. European films are concerned not so much with whether or not time is real, with whether or not an event actually took place, but rather with the ideas of coincidence and destiny, and with a vision of reality as a network of magically, or metaphysically (in the case of Kieslowski and Tykwer, for example), interrelated events. The multiple intersecting realities in European films emphasize the constitutive ambiguity, indeterminacy or absurdity of reality or focus on the conflict/clash between multiple realities. Hollywood, on the other hand, explores the logic of multiplicity, that is to say, logical (temporal) or ontological (real/unreal) inconsistencies and mistaken (but otherwise definite) identities (the obsession with forgetting one’s identity involves simply the correct identification of one’s already existing identity). As Myrto Konstantarakos points out, chronotope film studies reflect the ‘recent shift from history to geography in social science... [and] an increasing


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interest in the study of location, of space, in the contrast between landscape and cityscape, the country and the city, the psychological mapping and the mythology (in Roland Barthes’ sense of the term) of the city’ (1). Recent chronotope studies, such as the collection From Moscow to Madrid: Postmodern Cities, European Cinema (2002), explore the sense of ‘spatial dépaysement’ (displacement) in contemporary European films. Unlike the Hollywood chronotope, which multiplies realities and identities only to confuse them and suggest their unreality, the European chronotope multiplies realities in order to put them in conflict or reveal their interconnectedness. Films dealing with immigration, migration, diaspora, and cross-border travel are particularly good examples of the way in which the metaphysical problems of destiny, chance, coincidence and accident become politicized. For instance, Michael Haneke’s preoccupation with film form, in The Seventh Continent (1989), 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance (1994), Funny Games (1997), Code Unknown (2000), and Time of the Wolf (2003), demands a moral and political analysis of narrative structure, particularly insofar as it reflects the contradictory nature of the processes of globalization. In Coline Serreau’s Chaos (2001), the world of a middle-class French family clashes, by accident, with the world of a young woman of Algerian descent, Malika. Malika’s struggle for independence from her oppressive traditional family and from the pimps for whom she is forced to work, provokes the gender and social ‘awakening’ of the white middle-class French woman who rebels against her traditional role as mother and wife. The premise of the film is similar to that of Code Unknown, namely that self-absorbed Western Europeans have only random encounters to count on if they are to break through the cocoon of privilege in which they have ensconced themselves. Finally, Stephen Frears’ Dirty Pretty Things (2002) uses the multiple worlds/multiple identities chronotope to reflect on the fate of illegal immigrants in London. Through the multiple stories of legal and illegal immigrants the film introduces us to an underground organ donor business, whereby Eastern European and African immigrants, the new European proletariat, the invisible labor force driving the Western European market economy, sell their organs in return for fake foreign passports. Realism in cinema is intricately connected to, and dependent upon, the organization of narrative time. The European classical narrative tends to situate the story in large and varied social contexts that dilute the singularity of a central protagonist; further, it is usually less action-oriented than its Hollywood counterpart. European cinema’s claim to realism rests on a kind of narrative whose main structuring principle is association (spatiality) rather than causality (temporality). In his fascinating book Time and Unreal-

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ity (1984), Robert Brumbaugh illuminates the close relationship between narrative and ontological time by distinguishing between four ontological tenses: the present eternal, the present progressive, the future inceptive and the past perfective. The present eternal corresponds to the Platonic idea of time as ‘a frozen image in eternity’; its best artistic manifestation is the uneventful, unmoving, and therefore reversible (weak in modality or intensity) time of Kafka’a narratives. By contrast, the present progressive (or Aristotelian) time is experienced as linear, dramatic, and therefore irreversible. This tense, strong in modality, finds its best manifestation in Greek tragedy and, I would argue, in Hollywood films. The future inceptive, like the present progressive, is also irreversible and dramatic, but is more oriented toward the future (capturing the sense of increasing entropy, of time as a dynamic flow) rather than towards a fixed past. Finally, the past perfective tense refers to the experience of time as a reversible and discontinuous series of events whose full significance is grasped only after the event, in the act of recalling it (112, 120). The present eternal and the past perfective tenses function through the spatialization of time; conversely, the present progressive and the future inceptive tenses dramatize time. Most Hollywood films are set in ‘the present progressive’ tense; their strong impression of realism is due to the fact that we experience time as real whenever we experience it as irreversible. The ordering of events in a temporal sequence is essential to the integration of events into our psychic life and thus to the experience of time as real. By contrast, many European films take place in ‘the present eternal’ ontological (and filmic) tense: This time has continuity; settings and episodes flow and transform into one another. It has reversibility … an Aristotelian critic would be ill at ease looking for the plot, character, setting; and would probably go away insisting that this is an allegory, not an epic. But there is one more thing about this peculiar time … its weakness of modality. Between wakefulness and dream, actual and possible, there is very little shift of intensity, of color; or of causal coherence. … [As a result] time as anything dynamic, discontinuous, modally divided, is ‘unreal’. (Brumbaugh 115)

Extreme examples of the present eternal tense, which creates a sense of temporal derealization and transforms the film narrative into an allegory, are Alain Resnais’ films, especially Last Year at Marienbad (1961) and Muriel, or The Time of Return (1963). The European art films discussed later demonstrate the present eternal chronotope; on the other hand, Kies-


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lowski’s and Tykwer’s metaphysical realist films, in which the significance of events is grasped only in their repetition, embody the past perfective chronotope. The idea of irreversibility makes sense only under the assumption that events have a beginning and an end, causes and consequences. It is precisely through the impossibility of reversing the order of events that events acquire meaning in the first place. The same is true of memory: the past has signif icance for us precisely because certain events have transpired (or failed to transpire) in a certain order. Their pathos or significance depends on ‘where’ they have thrown anchor in time. Conversely, reversible causes and effects drain events of their significance, making them incapable of attaining the level of the tragic (the irreversible). If time is reversible, all events are accidental. However, and here lies the paradox, precisely when events are thus liberated from a strong sense of causality or necessity, random events appear to come together as if by some magical force. When the idea of time as reversible and weak in modality is taken to its logical conclusion, the world becomes a network of hidden connections: rather than one strong connection, multiple possible connections are imagined between things. Thus, in European films, scenes echo one another rather than causing one another; ‘causes’, ‘consequences’ and ‘motivations’ are replaced by ‘connections’, ‘analogies’, and ‘correspondences.’ Motion pictures have changed our very understanding of truth and reality. As Shiro Inouye has argued, the development of cinema, specifically the development of sound cinema (which he identifies with narrative cinema) as a correspondence between picture and word, has effected a sweeping change whereby truth is no longer construed as presence but as an activity of re-presencing, re-producing, re-peating. Truth is not that which is, but that which will have been: the concept of ‘truth’ has shifted from ‘what is’ (presence) to what ‘will be’ (destiny, plot): The correspondence between word and picture, sound and body, marked an important moment in the semiotic development of modern consciousness. It changed the meaning of truth by making true replication … a matter of activity. That is to say, it made true life a process of progress rather than a static isolation. Re-presence, the constant re-alignment of reality and ideology, became a higher priority than presence. … ‘[W]hat could become’ actually formed the modern sense of ‘what actually is.’ The development of the modern world happened as if it were inevitable, a manifest destiny. (Inouye 130)

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However, contemporary cinema has started reconfiguring the semiotic field in such a way that it expresses the failure of the idea of truth as activity manifested in the failure of narrativity: A new discontinuous and even fragmented visual regime returns us to a heightened mythical awareness of narrativity. Even more to the point, it leads us to a yearning for presence, even at the price of disconnection, even at the risk of modernity’s demise. … [The] further development of motion pictures toward visual discontinuity seems to suggest that the grapheme, in its relationship to the phoneme, has become equally important and perhaps even the dominant member of this union. To be sure, the spatial, associative powers of the picture were always appealing, even as they gained motion in the process of coming into synchronization with oral (and written) narrative patterns. (Inouye 131)

Here spatiality (or reversibility) is aligned with associative narrative structure. Association between events underscores similarities between them: it is the production of sameness from difference. The increasing fragmentation of recent cinema (as in the European films discussed here) is thus a symptom of our longing for presence (the image, by virtue of its spatiality, is supposed to give us that sense of presence) against the unreal and disappointing notion of truth as activity (as narrative). Inouye’s argument clearly originates in a critique of grand narratives with its disparagement of, and suspiciousness toward, falsifying narratives, and its privileging of spatial, associational, supposedly more authentic discourse as a rebellion against grand narratives and the phonocentrism of mass culture. And yet, this gradual replacement of phonocentrism by pictocentrism, of narrative by associational discourse, is itself made possible by mass culture. Only in mass culture can one achieve the sort of ‘pleasing arbitrariness’, whereby arbitrary vignettes are strung together and still seem to make sense in their arbitrariness, because under the conditions of mass culture all important differences between things become blurred so that arbitrary connections between them become not only plausible, but the only ones possible. It is precisely when, under the conditions of mass culture, things lose their individuality and uniqueness, that the connections between them become arbitrary. One important implication of reversibility in cinema is that it renders tragedy and pathos unthinkable, something typical of the postmodern narrative paradigm in general, which sets it off from the modern paradigm,


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exemplified by Hollywood cinema. The development of the modern paradigm is often attributed to the emergence of bourgeois individualism and it is manifested in a narrative emphasizing chronological, causal, linear and historical thinking: it presents psychologically defined individuals overcoming a conflict in order to attain a specific end. The idea of defining a protagonist in terms of struggle and suffering (rather than a protagonist who simply submits to transcendental, mythical forces) reflects the influence of post-war existentialism. The pathos of post-war humanist filmmakers, and the very essence of the modern paradigm, depends on the strong sense of ‘inevitability’ (which, here, is just another word for ‘emplotment’ and sharply distinguished from the mythical inevitability of natural or transcendental forces acting beyond the individual’s control). This tragic pathos becomes impossible in the postmodern paradigm, which expresses the absolute arbitrariness and insignificance of the postmodern/ahistorical sensibility in the deconstruction of plot.

Conclusion Whereas at the moment of the birth of cinema and in the 1970s ‒ the two main ‘epidemics’ of the multiple ‒ multiple personality disorder was an illness with particular recognizable symptoms, the current epidemic of the multiple in Hollywood cinema has outgrown the illness model. The symptomatic language of multiple personality now describes an increasingly unstable, ontologically vague, dissociative objective reality. Borrowing the symptomatic language of multiple personality, Hollywood has created a new genre of films suggesting new creative ways of dealing with all kinds of problems (rather than with strictly mental problems), from the psychological (The Mothman Prophecies) through marital (Premonition) to the ethical (the Bourne trilogy). Within the old illness model, the multiple was the result of trauma; in these films, however, the multiple is both the result of trauma (or of another more mundane problem) and the solution to the trauma/problem. Thus, even though characters find themselves in increasingly confusing situations, where they cannot even distinguish reality from dream and have to literally keep a calendar of events ‒ for example, Linda in Premonition ‒ this confusion is not debilitating; on the contrary, what appears as a confusing multiplicity of realities and temporalities enlarges the pool of options available to the characters and helps them cope with their problems. In an increasingly mediated culture, narratives involving multiple realities provide an outlet for the

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anxiety we feel over our passivity and powerlessness. They redeem the negative connotations of multiplicity ‒ instability, groundlessness, and relativism ‒ by treating multiplicity as a reassuring surplus of possibilities. Hollywood cinema of the multiple would have us believe that as long as we manage to arrange events in a chronological order, as long as we learn to distinguish the real from the unreal, all problems will be solved; or, put differently, that problems ‒ marital problems, the meaningless of life, unresolved feelings of guilt, loneliness, and so forth ‒ are caused either by a lack of chronology and/or by an ontological confusion of the real with the unreal, that the problems are metaphysical rather than existential. In other words, such narratives distract us from the real roots of the problem (for example, the ennui of middle-class marriage or the unfairness of gender roles in Premonition, where the threat to the housewife’s marriage seems to be the only excitement in her routine life) and force us to focus on the purely intellectual task of arranging events on a timeline (ironically, the ennui and predictability of marital life in this film are eventually solved by producing a schedule/calendar of events, an appropriate metaphor for the predictability of marital life). Premonition is about ‘getting the dates right’ rather than about questioning the institution of marriage, in whose name the protagonist labors diligently at the absurd metaphysical puzzle with which she is presented. As much as Hollywood films appear to deconstruct identity, reality and time by purposefully proliferating and conflating multiple identities, realities and temporalities, in the end they insist on the ‘border’ between the real and its others, between a singular, essential identity/reality/temporality and its ‘others’. By contrast, in its metaphysical form (for example, Kieslowski and Tykwer) the European chronotope of multiple realities affirms the irreducible multiplicity of realities/identities/temporalities; and in its politicized form (for example, Haneke) the European chronotope deconstructs the essentialism subtending the idea of Heimat (home, homeland). In the Hollywood films discussed here, multiple realities/identities/temporalities are, in the final analysis, still constructed as precisely such ‘alien others’ in relation to one privileged, singular, essential reality/identity/temporality. Hollywood cinema of the multiple is essentially conservative: the meaning of events, it suggests, lies in whether or not the events are real (multiple realities) and/or in what order they occur (multiple temporalities), and who we are depends on whether we remember everything, regardless of what exactly it is we remember (the act of remembering is more important than what is remembered). The films’ relativism is also conservative: as long as we maintain we are absolutely free to choose ourselves, we can choose


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ourselves as essentially good, as Jason Bourne or Jean Jacket (in Unknown) do; as long as we believe the loved ones we have lost are not really lost but continue to exist in some alternate world, we can deny the reality of death (The Mothman Prophecies); as long as we doubt the reality of the world, we are distracted from acting upon it with the intention of changing it; instead, we remain absorbed in the game of guessing the boundaries of the real (The Thirteenth Floor).


Paranoia and the Geopolitical Conspiracy Thriller

Does the current cinematic epidemic of the multiple exacerbate our already bad case of metaphysical uncertainty? The answer, I think, is no. In Hollywood films the multiplication of realities, identities and temporalities does not lead to skepticism, as one might expect, because every illusory reality, mistaken identity or a-chronological sequence of events is eventually given a clear narrative or psychological justification, having been ultimately designed to reinvest characters with a sense of agency: in other words, the ‘multiple film’, which transformed the psychopathology of multiple personality into a cultural and aesthetic phenomenon, serves a therapeutic function. The contemporary conspiracy thriller’s reworking of clinical paranoia into cultural paranoia fulfills a similar function.1 While clinical paranoia used to be an irrational response to reality, cultural paranoia is increasingly seen either as inherent in the very structure of the new global economy or as a rational response, a ‘social practice’ through which the disempowered subject attempts to position himself with respect to the social/political world.2 Contemporary geopolitical conspiracy thrillers ‘borrow’ the symptomatic language of clinical paranoia to dramatize a new type of conspiracy, ‘structural conspiracy’: ‘conspiracy without conspiracy.’ Fueled by the Watergate scandal, post-Vietnam disillusionment, and public skepticism toward the Warren Commission report, the 1970s conspiracy thriller located conspiracy within government and corporate establishments, turning the focus of paranoia inward, toward America’s own institutions. Films like The Manchurian Candidate (John Frankenheimer, 1962), Klute (Alan Pakula, 1971), The Parallax View (Alan Pakula, 1974), All The President’s Men (Alan Pakula, 1974) and Three Days of the Condor (Sydney Pollack, 1975) provided ‘textual resolutions for inadequately explained socio-historical traumas,’3 thematizing the individual’s powerlessness in the face of ubiquitous institutional control. The surveillance society thrillers of the 1990s ‒ Wag the Dog (Barry Levinson, 1997), The Game (David Fincher, 1997), The Truman Show (Peter Weir, 1998), The Matrix (Andy and Lana Wachowski, 1999), The Thirteenth Floor (Josef Rusnak, 1999), and Pleasantville (Gary Ross, 1998) ‒ responded to the paranoia engendered by a media-saturated reality. Recent conspiracy thrillers ‒ Enemy of the State (Tony Scott, 1998), Vantage Point (Pete Travis, 2008), The Da Vinci Code (Ron Howard, 2006), Angels & Demons (Ron Howard, 2009), The International (Tom


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Tykwer, 2009), Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010), Salt (Phillip Noyce, 2010), Breach (Billy Ray, 2007), The Insider (Michael Mann, 1999), The Constant Gardener (Fernando Meirelles, 2005), The Interpreter (Sydney Polack, 2005), Syriana (Stephen Gaghan, 2005), Traffic (Steven Soderbergh, 2000), and Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010) ‒ testify to a growing uncertainty about issues of causality, responsibility, and agency, as well as to the routinization of conspiracy. 4 As Peter Knight has argued, contemporary paranoia is ‘less an isolated reaction to an occasional abuse of power than the logical by-product of a routinized state of affairs... of seemingly benign corporate processes such as the gathering of consumer profiles via credit card purchases, website visits etc’ (35). There have been various attempts to explain the dominance of conspiracy in contemporary culture. In Paranoia and Modernity John Farrell argues that the dominant post-war French critical discourse (Sartre, Althusser, Lacan. Foucault), which described ‘forms of agency, teleology, or intentionality ‒ discourse, capital, power ‒ [as] at once all-encompassing and alien, totally intimate yet totally other,’ naturalized paranoia and cemented the view that we are ‘the victims of social relations of an unfathomable and inescapable manipulative power’ (Farrell 4). Post-war French intellectuals, following on the trails of Nietzsche, Marx and Freud, ‘carried the suspicion of society to new depths: for Sartre, the ‘gaze’ of others imposes a fundamental experience of alienation; for Althusser, the discourse of responsibility is a primary instance of ideology; for Lacan, language itself is the source of our unnatural submission to the Father; and for Foucault, an unlocatable and alien power infiltrates every particle of our social being’ (4). In The Geopolitical Aesthetic Jameson examines ‘the figuration of conspiracy as an [unconscious] attempt... to think a system so vast that it cannot be encompassed by the natural and historically developed categories of perception with which human beings normally orient themselves’ (Jameson 1-2). Insofar as the conspiratorial text represents an unconscious, collective effort to cognitively orient ourselves in the present period of late capitalism, it points to our failure to think totality (the social/collective and the epistemological totality). ‘In the widespread paralysis of the collective or social imaginary,’ writes Jameson, conspiracy has acquired new significance as ‘a narrative structure capable of reuniting the minimal basic components: a potentially infinite network [the collective] along with a plausible explanation of its invisibility [the epistemological]’ (9). He reads the centrality of conspiracy in late capitalist culture as a response to (as well as a symptom of) our growing inability to grasp totality, to reconcile our experience of a globalized world, in which everything seems connected, with our inability to understand that

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world via our traditional, now obsolete, notions of causality and agency, that is to say, our failure at cognitive mapping.5 It is in trying to fulfill this double function of conveying the collective and the epistemological that the allegorical structure of conspiracy poses new ‘representational dilemmas.’ Conspiracy theory provides a compensatory sense of historical location ‒ ‘cognitive mapping’ ‒ that is missing from everyday life (20). This accounts for the heightened sense of space ‒ and the importance of architecture ‒ in conspiracy thrillers: the inability of the subject to position himself in the economic system of late capitalism becomes displaced or manifested in the heightened spatiality of the conspiracy text.6 Recent conspiracy thrillers continue to embody the heightened spatiality of 1970s thrillers, although the hermeneutic content is spatialized in a different way: compare the cavernous telephone central in Three Days of the Condor, which provides visual confirmation ‘that telephone cables and lines and their interchanges follow us everywhere, doubling the streets and buildings of the visible social world with a secondary secret underground world’ (Jameson 15), or the dark walkways raised above the convention hall in the famous last sequence of The Parallax View, to the kinds of spaces proliferating in recent conspiracy texts: in The International the transparent bank headquarters or the Guggenheim museum, a circular structure that denies invisibility both to the agents of the conspiracy and to the hero bent on exposing it; in The Interpreter the UN Headquarters, in which the political assassination can be staged from any of the interpreter booths surrounding the main platform. The simultaneously expanding and shrinking world we live in is no longer visualized in clear spatial terms (for example, above and below) or in terms of the invisible/visible (for example, exposing the secret conspiracy). The visual and narrative visibility of the conspiracy in recent films, which points to a denial or displacement of agency, has given rise to a new type of conspiracy, ‘conspiracy without conspiracy’. ‘Exposing’ the conspiracy no longer involves understanding but rather decoding the truth: ethical and political understanding take a back seat to technical expertise, whether it is the expertise to decipher ‘codes’ (The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons), translate words (The Interpreter), isolate inconsistencies in the visual design of one’s dream (Inception), identify the uses of different types of surveillance technology (Enemy of the State), or identify differences between different recordings of the same event (Vantage Point). As long as conspiracy was construed in terms of invisibility and concealment, its exposure remained a possibility; however, visibility/transparency has rendered the old notion of conspiracy obsolete. If The International


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embodies the principle of visibility/transparency in the prominent image of the transparent headquarters of the International Bank of Business and Credit (IBBC), Inception offers us its mental equivalent in the protagonist’s transparent mental life: not only does he enjoy full access both to his conscious and subconscious life, but others can ‘tour’ his subconscious just as he can ‘tour’ theirs. The visibility/transparency of conspiracy in recent films manifests in three ways: 1) actantial promiscuity, 2) the multiplication of conspiracies within conspiracies, and 3) structural promiscuity (conspiracy without conspiracy).

Actantial promiscuity According to Jameson, our failure to convey the new relationship of the individual to the social world under the conditions of late capitalism is reflected in the persistence of anachronistic technologies obviously incommensurable with the new post-industrial landscape of which the 1970s thrillers were already a part: the regression to a relatively old-fashioned, archaic technology in All the President’s Men (the telephone) suggests that we have not found appropriate forms of representation to convey the new relationship of the individual to the social world. We find a similar regression to anachronistic technology ‒ reflecting perhaps a similar inability to imagine the subject’s relationship to the social world ‒ in the ultra-slick thriller The International. Architecturally, the film moves from the ultra-modern (Berlin), through the ultra-modern in combination with fin-de-siècle elegance (Milan), to classical modern and run-down (New York, the Guggenheim, the police precinct and city streets) to the ancient (Istanbul, the Grand Bazaar). The classic modern (the Guggenheim) and the other modern buildings (such as the bank) emphasize the visual contrast between the overbearing multinational conglomerate and the disempowered individual.7 In the words of the director, this is a claustrophobic world: clean, sharp, perfectly in focus, seemingly indestructible, designed to meet the interests of those that design this world, not the people living in it. The film ends on the rooftops of the Grand Bazaar, historically the biggest marketplace in the world, without a single ruler, and the opposite of its present equivalent, the single private bank ruling the entire world. The IBBC headquarters (filmed in Autostadt Voklswagen) are housed in an imposing building made entirely of glass, transparent but at the same time invisible as it reflects everything around it: it recedes precisely in exposing itself to us. It seems like unlimited space, but it is limited: the bank is transparent, but its

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transparency is fake. It creates the illusion that its machinations are legal, that its conspiracies are authorized precisely because they are not hidden. Within the old model of secure paranoia, the very fact that something is hidden, that there is a secret, presupposes a point of view from which the secret can be exposed. In Tykwer’s new model of conspiracy, however, the distinction between visible and invisible has vanished and, with it, the possibility of a place from which one can oppose the system. If everything is visible and transparent, there can be no secrets, no conspiracy, nothing to ‘expose’. For Jameson, the fundamental problem of ‘the new globalizing representations’ is the incommensurability between the individual subject and the ‘collective web of the hidden social order’ (33): the problem of the conspiracy thriller lies in representing these two incommensurables, the individual and the social. If the thriller seeks to convince us that in the late capitalist state conspiracies are already with us, that they are real, the problem of agency becomes paramount. Jameson resorts to Greimas’s narrative semiotics, specifically to the notion of an actantial function, which does not correspond to an individual character in the narrative: ‘For several “real” or named characters might conceivably share a single actantial agency (that of the villain, for example), while on the other hand, a given official character on the surface of the narrative text might under certain circumstances move from one actantial position to a wholly different one’ (33). The conspiracy thriller borrows ‘the usefully conventional actantial patterns of the sub-genres, such as the detective story, with its rotation around the triangle formed by detective, victim, and murderer’ while the conspiratorial plot must find a way to bring together the two incommensurable orders: the individual detective and the social/the collective (the detective is an individual and the murder is collective, a kind of ‘joint venture between the victim and the perpetrator’ (33). The conspiracy plot brings these two opposing poles by means of mirrors, speed and rotation (33), that is, creating mirror effects (e.g. double agents) and rotating the character, who remains ‘the same’ while his actantial function keeps shifting (from detective to victim to murderer to all of the above). By means of the rotation method, the individual is no longer an individual; he becomes socialized: ‘what is wanted is as absolute a collectivization of the individual as possible: no longer an individual victim, but everybody; no longer an individual villain, but an omnipresent network; no longer an individual detective with a specific brief but rather someone who blunders into all of this just as anyone might have done’ (34). The rotation of actantial functions among the same characters makes the attribution of agency


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difficult (hence ‘conspiracy without conspiracy’), though impossible to deny (hence the ‘victimless conspiracy’): Perhaps, indeed, it is this deeper narrative structure ‒ rather than any clinical reality of ‘state of consciousness’ ‒ that defines the ideologeme that currently bears the name of paranoia in the popular mind. Such a structure does not efface the category of the individual character.... Rather, it transcends that category by retaining it and yet subjecting it to a momentum of structural displacements whereby the physical actors remain somehow ‘the same’ while their actantial functions shift ceaselessly beneath them. (34)

Characters supposedly representing opposing forces in the narrative take turns to fulfill the same actantial function: the conspirator is also the victim of conspiracy, and the hero seeking to expose the conspiracy is inevitably implicated in it. For instance, in The Parallax View Frady’s pathological character ‘is functional and is systematically looped back into the narrative... everything that equips him to penetrate the organization also makes him vulnerable to the latter’s manipulation’ (59). Frady’s motivation ‘is overdetermined by the “crime” [he is investigating]. In some immense postmodern Hegelianism, the same structures contaminate the fields of the subject and the object alike, making them infinitely substitutable and susceptible to endless transformation into each other’ (60-61). Let us look at some recent examples of actantial promiscuity, beginning with Salt. Salt’s personal history is a never-ending game of assuming different identities. Her training to become a spy is so successful that instead of becoming a Russian who pretends to be an American, she becomes an American who pretends to be a Russian pretending to be an American. Salt’s incessant switching of identities in the course of the film is not just a genre effect to keep us guessing until the end: she herself doesn’t know who she is and where her allegiances lie. Even her last ‘switch” ‒ from a Russian spy (back?) to an American one ‒ does not have a sense of finality to it. No clear explanation is given as to why she suddenly switches sides: in fact, her prolonged and determined struggle to get access to the American president can be read, simultaneously, in two opposite ways: she really means to kill him, but at the last moment, when she realizes the other CIA agent will launch nuclear missiles at Russia, she suddenly switches sides, or she switches sides a lot earlier (when she sees Orlov kill her husband) and then follows up with the plan of pretending that she is still working for the Russians, but actually infiltrates the White House to prevent the murder of the American president.

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Throughout the film, she rotates between politically and ethically opposed actantial functions: depending on whether she identifies as a Russian or American spy, she alternates between the role of a victim and an assassin, and sometimes seems to occupy both at the same time. Since her identity is reversible and interchangeable, it is impossible to judge her actions from a political or ethical point of view: the meaning of her actions is not inherent in them but depends on whether we perceive her, at any given moment, as a victim or as an assassin. Since she is always in the mode of pretending to be, pretending to pretend, pretending not to pretend, or not pretending to pretend, her actions become meaningful only in retrospect, but by the time she catches up with the retrospective explanation of her past actions, she has already moved on and assumed another identity, so the explanation no longer holds true. Salt’s actions cannot be attributed to her: she is nothing but an infinite oscillation between mutually exclusive actantial functions. This constant flipping back and forth between ‘is she’ or ‘isn’t she’ (Russian/ American) is ‘resolved’ with a final external reversal: we are to believe that she cannot be a Russian spy simply because her colleague, another CIA agent, is exposed as ‘the real’ Russian spy. The ending brings home the political and ethical irrelevance of her shifting actantial functions, and thus of the conspiracy on which the whole film was premised. Enemy of the State opens with the murder of a Congressman who opposes a Telecommunications Security and Privacy Act that a certain NSA official wants to pass. Will Smith plays Dean, an upright and happily married lawyer who winds up being targeted, chased and spied on by ruthless forces within the NSA because an inadvertent witness to the murder slips the only piece of evidence of the murder in Dean’s bag. Enemy of the State asks: how do you negotiate the rights of citizens to national security with their civil liberty rights, and what if defending the former happens at the price of violating the latter? While the film appears to critique surveillance society, the ‘innocent citizen’ who accidentally becomes ‘an enemy of the state’ uncovers the NSA conspiracy with the help of an ex-NSA surveillance expert, using the same surveillance technology he condemned as violating his civil rights. The investigation does not demand an act of understanding or reflection, but depends on finding an expert who uses the same code upon which the conspiracy rests. The same is true of Breach, in which exposing the conspirator depends on using his methods: the protagonist is forced to become a double agent in order to expose a spy within the FBI. Closure is one of the fundamental problems raised by the conspiratorial text; one of the ways in which films secure a ‘closure-effect’ is by space and spatiality (Jameson 31). Jameson’s analysis of Videodrome (David


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Cronenberg, 1983) demonstrates how the plot leads us through different urban spaces, hoping to cover the entire urban landscape, touching all the points: this ‘spatial closure is formally necessary precisely because the narrative itself cannot know any closure or completion of this kind’ (32). Covering all points of the urban landscape creates the impression that all intangible connections (the conspiracy, the totality) have been made visible/tangible. The more exhaustive or heightened the spatiality of a film ‒ as it is, for example, in the travelogue conspiracy thriller ‒ the more desperate the need to create an impression that closure has been attained, though only on the spatial rather than narrative level. The travelogue thriller The International follows Salinger, an Interpol agent, and an American attorney, as they investigate corruption within IBBC, a fictional merchant bank that serves organized crime and corrupt governments as a banker and arms broker. Although Salinger works for Interpol, he is presented as a lone crusader dissatisfied with the bureaucratization of intelligence and law enforcement. Salinger’s investigation leads him to one of IBBC’s employees, a former hardliner communist in the Stasi. Salinger wonders why such a man, who fought the evils of capitalism for thirty years, decided to spend his last days working for IBBC, which embodies everything he fought against. The man explains that the very institution Salinger works for guarantees the bank’s safety simply because everyone is involved: CIA, the Colombian drug cartels, Russian organized crime, the governments of China, Germany and the US, and so forth, all of whom need a bank like IBBC in order to function at all. Conspiracy, the film makes clear, makes all other institutions operational, including the one for which the hero works. Different social institutions ‒ the bank, Interpol, and other intelligence and law enforcement institutions ‒ share the same structure; that is, they are all corporations. Even the buildings that house them are structurally similar, imposing and impersonal: the IBBC headquarters is visually indistinguishable from the all-glass headquarters of the District Attorney’s office in New York. If Salinger wants to bring the bank down he cannot do it from within the boundaries of his system of justice: he has to act as a vigilante and take the law in his own hands, rather than depend on orders from the District Attorney’s office. Just as he is about to murder the chairman of the bank, however, Salinger is ‘saved’ from a difficult ethical dilemma by another assassin, who kills the bank chairman for him. Salinger’s critique of the system, like Frady’s in The Parallax View, is thus co-opted by the system: he is on the verge of becoming an assassin who is indistinguishable from the assassins employed by the conspiratorial power he is fighting to expose.8

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The multiplication of conspiracies within conspiracies Vantage Point centers on an assassination plot on the US president during an international summit on global terrorism in Salamanca. The film follows the same event ‒ the assassination attempt ‒ from several different vantage points. The first sections are consistently shot from different vantage points, while the last one is decidedly omniscient. The film’s premise is that the we don’t understand what is going on is because we have a partial point of view, but as soon as we see the full picture ‒ which the film provides by means of the different vantage points structure ‒ we understand everything. The first vantage point from which the story is told is that of the media (a TV station covering the event), the second that of the president’s loyal bodyguard, the third that of an undercover member of the local police force, the fourth that of an American tourist videotaping the event, the fifth that of the US president himself. The real story remains somewhat vague, despite the accumulation of multiple vantage points. Several weeks earlier the Americans have found out that a local armed brigade is smuggling in a bomb from Morocco. When the Americans capture the men, the local brigade seeks revenge. The president’s advisors try to persuade him to attack one of the brigade’s ‘terrorist’ camps in Morocco, but he refuses to call in a strike. Our first impression is that the government is conspiring against the president to force him to go back on his anti-terrorist plans and attack Morocco. However, we gradually find out that the assassination was staged; that is to say, that the conspiracy we suspected is fake, merely a cover for ‘the real conspiracy’. The displacement of agency, the eclipse of political responsibility, and the impossibility of attributing a deed to a doer are dramatized in the president’s fake assassination, which is, tellingly enough, carried out by no one: the head of the terrorist operation activates the gun ‘killing’ the president’s double by remote control, thereby creating the illusion of a single shooter. Despite the multiplication of vantage points, which create the illusion of multiple conspiracies within conspiracies, the film is ultimately structured around an absence: a conspiracy without a victim and without a perpetrator. Many recent thrillers follow the same model: in The Interpreter a conspiracy turns out to be fake; in Salt the American spy only looks like a Soviet one (or vice versa); in Inception your dream only looks like your own, while it is actually designed by someone else; in The Da Vinci Code Opus Dei only looks like a conspiracy of assassins, while the real assassins belong to another secret group within Opus Dei; and in Breach Eric O’Neil only looks like a spy, while in fact he is a spy (Eric pretends to be a spy like


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Hansen, while in reality he is an agent, but he is indeed a spy because he is hired to spy on Hansen). Old-style paranoia projects intentionality and agency where there is none: the paranoid believes random events to be causally related and permeated with an intention. He considers himself powerless and projects all power outside himself. However, the proliferation of conspiracies within conspiracies serves to deflect power so that intentionality and accountability cannot be attributed to any particular individual or collective agent. The multiplication of conspiracies distorts the hermeneutics of suspicion: rather than distinguishing the truth from a lie, the protagonist must now distinguish ‘the real lie’ (the inner conspiracy, the conspiracy within the conspiracy) from the ‘false lie’ (the outer conspiracy) which is paradoxically redeemed, retroactively, as ‘truth’. In The Da Vinci Code a murder inside the Louvre and clues in Da Vinci paintings lead to the discovery of a religious mystery that has been protected by a secret society for two thousand years, a mystery that ‘could shake the very foundations of Christianity.’ The Da Vinci Code appears, on the surface, to be rooted in the old version of paranoia understood in terms of transparency and invisibility. When symbologist Dr. Langdon asks, in the course of a university lecture, ‘How do we penetrate centuries of historical distortion to find original truth?’ the film expects us to think of conspiracy in terms of the concealment of truth. The conspiracy at the center of the film is of a religious nature, though its larger political and social implications are easy to gauge. However, Dr. Langdon’s investigation of the religious conspiracy at the center of the story is nothing like the investigations in earlier conspiracy thrillers. Here, uncovering the conspiracy is not a matter of uncovering the intentions or plans of a secret group or organization; instead, investigation takes the form of historical reconstruction through the interpretation of representations (works of art). Langdon is engaged in a doubly mediated quest for truth: a reinterpretation of history through a reinterpretation of works of art. He is not investigating reality; he is investigating a code, a symbolic language (painting) in order to reinterpret another code, another symbolic language (religion). The detective assumes the role of a historian: he revisits historical records with a view to re-reading them. Unlike earlier thrillers, in which the detective was engaged in reading events as they happen, Langdon’s relationship to the conspiracy he is trying to expose is mediated by works of art. Exposing the conspiracy now includes another, meta-level, as it is no longer a matter of reading reality but of re-reading, re-interpreting and correcting prior readings: the detective is re-reading re-presentations of history, because he lacks an immediate access to history/reality/experience. Although the search for the correct

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interpretation of signs has larger political implications ‒ having to do with gender inequalities, the nature of faith, and the authority of the Church ‒ the film foregrounds the act of interpretation itself: the focus is on reading signs rather than reading intentions and motives. Accordingly, the two ‘social detectives’ in the film are no longer investigative journalists (as in The Three Days of the Condor or All the Presidents’ Men) whose first obligation is to the public, but rather two experts, a symbologist and a cryptographer, highly specialized in the interpretation of a hermetic world of symbols. The conspiracy is set up in terms of a struggle between science and superstition, between the secular and the sacred. Unlike those they are investigating ‒ and those that pursue them ‒ the social detectives are scientists and skeptics: the cryptographer explicitly states she does not believe in God, while Langdon refers to the story of the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail as ‘myth’. However, their secular quest for truth, which initially justifies itself as a critical dismantling of the grand narrative of faith, ends up reaffirming what it was supposed to reject. When the truth of the conspiracy is finally exposed, the foundations of Christianity are not shattered but, on the contrary, strengthened: the symbologist, supposedly the voice of reason and science, expresses hope that their findings will lead to the rebirth of faith rather than to its extinguishment. Thus the hero, who sets out to expose the conspiracy upon which Christianity was built, ends up legitimizing Christianity as a grand narrative on even stronger grounds by creating the illusion that those grounds have been re-examined rationally. Langdon relies on reason and secular skepticism to reinvent faith: his critique is eventually co-opted by the grand narrative ‒ the conspiracy ‒ to provide the illusion of rational, empirical grounds for faith. Throughout the film, Langdon observes that, ‘the mind sees what it chooses to see.’ This is how he explains why most people fail to notice Mary Magdalene in Da Vinci’s Last Supper. This is a more or less accurate description of how the paranoid mind works: it projects meaning and intention where there is none. This kind of projective understanding describes both the act of revealing the truth of the representation (seeing Mary Magdalene in the painting, making what used to be invisible visible) and the act of misinterpretation (the reason why no one saw her in the painting is that we are all blinded by long-standing conventions and authoritative historical accounts). Thus concealing the truth and revealing the truth are rooted in the same kind of paranoid understanding of the world: seeing connections where there are none, seeing what the mind chooses (wants) to see. The ultimate demonstration of the defeat of secular reason in the face of


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the resurrected grand narrative of Christianity is the image of Langdon, kneeling like one of the Knights Templar, on top of the tomb of Mary Magdalene, buried under (what else?) the Louvre. Instead of questioning the authority of the Church on earth, the social detective questions merely the fiction upon which that authority rests: it is a matter of distinguishing between the right/real fiction and the wrong/false fiction, between the real story (Christ is human) and the false story (Christ is divine), rather than questioning whose interests such fictions serve in the first place. The paranoia driving the story is not motivated by the fear that what we believe might be a lie, but rather by the fear that there might be nothing to believe in. The investigation into the mysteries of religious doctrine is not meant to threaten the source of the Church’s power on earth, but precisely to avoid a crisis of faith. Having spent the entire film looking for empirical evidence for Jesus’ humanity, Langdon asks at the end, ‘Why does it have to be human or divine?’ What matters is what one believes, even in the absence of empirical evidence (evidence that the cryptographer is Jesus’ last living descendant). The potential ‘crisis of faith’ faced by the Church, as a result of the uncovering of the conspiracy against the Priory, is, in the end, of no consequence. It does not matter if the Church’s power on earth is based on a lie or on empirical evidence. In The Da Vinci Code, as in Salt and Inception, the premise of the story ‒ that there is a meaningful distinction to be made between Soviet and American spies (politics), between real and simulated experiences (ontology), between human and divine (religion) ‒ is ultimately dismissed as irrelevant. Although the story focuses on religious conspiracies, it also suggests that other institutions (the police, financial and art institutions) are also implicated: the police detective pursuing the protagonists is himself a member of Opus Dei; the Priory’s secrets are kept in a vault at a Swiss bank; the final resting place of Mary Magdalene is hidden underneath one of the world’s most significant art institutions, the Louvre. The law, the bank, and the art museum are all implicated in concealing or revealing the ‘truth’ about Jesus’ mortality: the law conceals it, financial institutions provide access to it, representations (works of art) reveal it. It is this ‘division of labor’ that enables the social detectives to assert their agency at the end: the law suppresses the truth so that it seems the individual agent is powerless to reveal it; however, truth is located on the side of representations (it is a matter of correctly interpreting representations/art works), which serves to reinvest the subject with the illusion of power. The proliferation of conspiracies within conspiracies serves to deflect power so that intentionality and accountability cannot be attributed to

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any particular individual or collective agent. At first the Church is the sole source of conspiratorial power. However, in the course of their investigation, the detectives uncover two opposing factions within the Church, Opus Dei and the Priory: now the story distracts us from the notion of the Church as conspiring against (or manipulating) everyone and instead focuses on Opus Dei’s conspiracy against the Priory. We are distracted a second time when the detectives discover that the men actually responsible for the murder of members of the Priori do not belong to Opus Dei, but to another secret group within Opus Dei, the Council of Shadows. Thus the film shifts the emphasis from investigating the institution of the Church to investigating the conspiracies internal to the institution. The Church is presented as a victim to multiple internal conspiracies rather than as the source of conspiracy itself. The institution shifts between two different actantial functions: it is both the conspirator and the victim of conspiracy. The same applies to the individual: Langdon is the detective uncovering the conspiracy, but he is also a conspirator himself inasmuch as he shares the language of the conspiracy he is trying to uncover. It is only because he knows how to read the Church’s symbolic language that he is able to uncover the conspiracy ‘written’ in that very same language. The internal fragmentation of the conspiracy (the Church) into opposing factions creates the impression that the Church does not enjoy absolute power. The Church now appears as both wanting to conceal and wanting to reveal its secret: conspiracy is re-imagined as undermining or deconstructing itself, as concealing in revealing and revealing in concealing. Indeed, the film perniciously suggests that conspiracy automatically ‒ inevitably ‒ exposes itself. In Angels & Demons, the sequel to Da Vinci Code, the investigation takes place against the glossy background of another glossy tourist attraction, in this case Rome rather than Paris. The investigation of the conspiracy is, once again, presented not as a matter of uncovering the motives of the various parties involved, but as a kind of game: the social detectives follow the clues and, thanks to their expert knowledge of the secret ‘code’ ‒ Illuminati ambigrams ‒ they cannot but get to the truth. While 1970s paranoia thrillers are structured around the gradual uncovering of secret groups or organizations, in the film adaptations of Dan Brown’s novels, the existence of secret societies is posited from the very beginning as part of the exposition: they have always existed and continue to exist now, even though we believe them to have vanished. Conspiracy is then used to re-enchant a bleak, secular world. The conspiracy becomes ‘emplotted’: it is not construed in terms of unknown, secret motives, agendas or powers, but merely in terms of history. Thus, what is secretive or conspiratorial about


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the Illuminati is not that we do not know that they exist or what they want (Langdon provides a quick historical account answering these questions early in the film); the only secretive or conspiratorial thing about them is their sudden anachronistic re-appearance against the glossy background of a rational, secular world. As we saw, The Da Vinci Code erases the distinction between faith and reason on which the story is presumably based: a secular detective investigates matters of faith only to prove himself the greatest believer. Similarly, in the sequel, the Church is supposed to be the main source of conspiracy (it conspires against the general public by intentionally keeping secret certain scientific findings), but in the end, scientists and atheists (the symbologist and the female physicist) work together with the Church to uncover a second conspiracy within the Church (the Camerlengo resurrects the Illuminati, hoping to force the Church into a more conservative, hard-line position with respect to science). This strategy of uncovering a second conspiracy within the institution that is supposed to be the main conspirator (the Church, a bank, and so forth) conceals the culpability of the Church and, in a perverse way, legitimizes it by presenting it as itself a victim of conspiracy. Both f ilm adaptations posit the existence of secret societies ‒ and thus conspiracies ‒ from the beginning, which accounts for their failure to produce any kind of epistemological, political, ontological or ethical restlessness in the viewer. Once a supposedly secret conspiracy is posited as real, it does not have to be revealed: the films may create the illusion that unconcealment is going on, while in reality the secret exposes itself from the beginning (and is verified by an expert) only to re-conceal itself again. Unveiling the conspiracy is just a matter of learning how to read the signs correctly: understanding is reduced to deciphering a code, which is visible to everyone (in paintings, cathedrals, churches, and so forth), but accessible only to the social-detective-as-expert. In Inception Leonardo DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, a corporate espionage thief, whose work consists of secretly extracting valuable commercial information from the unconscious mind of his targets while they are asleep and dreaming. Following his wife’s suicide, for which he was the main suspect, Cobb is forced to leave his home and children. Cobb is offered a chance to take back his old life in exchange for an almost impossible task: ‘inception’, the planting of an idea into a target’s subconscious. Gradually we piece together Cobb’s past life: we learn that his wife Moll and he were working on designing their own dream-world. He planted the idea in her mind that her world was not real, and the idea ‘stuck’ with her even after they came back to reality: she was convinced her dream was reality and reality was a

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dream. What remains constant in both worlds ‒ reality and dream ‒ is the character’s doubt: since the character doubts both ontologically different worlds, the distinction between them is erased. Inception ends on the same purposefully ambiguous note as Salt: the incessant spinning of Tom’s totem suggests he might still be dreaming, just as Salt’s true nature/allegiance remains ultimately obscured. Here conspiracy theory slides into something else: the question is no longer ‘is there an intention behind what appear to be random events,’ but rather, ‘is the event real or dreamed’? Nevertheless, since the film’s premise has to do with planting ideas, the question of agency is once again raised: how do we attribute a particular act to a particular agent? How do we know the real origin of someone’s actions given that new technologies have opened up a gap between thoughts and actions? If a thought is not mine, can the action I perform in response to the thought still be considered mine? Cobb’s team conspires against Robert Fischer by planting an idea in his mind; more importantly, however, Cobb’s subconscious conspires against him by refusing to be repressed and haunting his every dream, including the dream-worlds he designs for others. The typical paranoid imagines, erroneously, that everything around him is related to him, whereas in Cobb’s case everything ‒ including other people’s dreams ‒ is, indeed, about him. While in ‘conventional’ paranoia the question is whether there might be a secret meaning behind events, Inception seems to take this one step further: can meaning be anything but secret, can things in the public world, the world that we share with others, have meaning that is not colored by the self’s most private, subconscious desires and fears? One of the most fascinating episodes in the film is the one in which Cobb instructs Ariadne how to design a dream. The architect is called ‘the dreamer’: he builds the world and then brings in the subject who populates it with projections of his/her subconscious. The dreamer also designs a special ‘safe’, which the subject’s mind automatically fills with the most secret, private information. Cobb’s team then breaks in and steals the contents of the safe. The premise is that the team cannot go directly into the subject’s mind and uncover its innermost secrets: they first have to create a ‘place’ (the safe). This implies that there would be no access to the secret, and no secret perhaps, if the dreamer/architect did not first design a ‘place’ for it. Unless they are located somewhere, secrets don’t exist. The dreamer creates the unconscious: if the dreamer did not design a safe, presumably the subject’s mind wouldn’t feel the need to hide something secret in it. The act of ‘inception’ thus functions as a self-fulfilling prophecy: the dreamer (who is, significantly, not the dreaming subject) creates the space of the unconscious and the dreaming subject’s mind automatically splits into


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the subconscious and the conscious. Paradoxically, the dream is no longer positioned as ‘unconscious’ in contrast to waking reality; instead, the dream is reality, a constructed reality within which there is a deeper secret, the subconscious, which exposes itself precisely in wanting to hide itself (in the safe). This is possible only if the subject actually knows he is dreaming, if he is aware that everything in his dream is visible and is motivated by this awareness to create another hiding place, ‘the safe’. Thus, precisely because Cobb’s subconscious conspires against him by continually returning to haunt him and refusing to be repressed, Cobb maintains full control over his entire mental life, conscious, subconscious and unconscious. There is nothing in his mental life to which he has no access, of which he is unaware, or which he has forgotten. He is an expert at implanting ideas in other people’s minds ‒ that is, surveying, monitoring and manipulating their inner life ‒ namely because he is so good at surveying himself. It is because he functions as his own best surveillance camera that he knows he cannot trust himself to design other people’s dreams for fear of polluting them with his own subconscious. And yet, despite his absolute transparency to himself, his awareness of the different levels of his mental life, in the end the only guarantee that he is not the victim of a conspiracy ‒ his own subconscious and unconscious wishes, desires and fears conspiring against him ‒ is an external object, a token, which he himself chooses but which presumably establishes the reality or unreality of events independently of him. The paradoxical architecture of the dream visualizes the collapse of the private into the public: the infinite staircase (Penrose steps) folds upon itself in an infinite loop, a circumscribed infinity that is infinite not because it extends infinitely, but precisely because it collapses onto itself: space without distance (hence the image of two enormous glass doors on a Paris bridge, which, when closed, produce a series of infinite reflections of whatever happens to stand between them). The architecture of the dream reveals the reversibility of the infinite and the finite in the private realm, which parallels the reversibility of the visible and the invisible in the public realm: they both point to the disappearance of the secret and thus of the very possibility of unconcealment.

Structural promiscuity Parallel to the rotation of the character, who appears to remain the same even as he shifts between different, often opposite, actantial functions, is

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a rotation of various social structures, which appear to remain different even as their basic form remains the same (the corporation). The corporation format now exists independently of a specific organization: business, politics, religion, and pharmaceutical companies are all structured in the same way. This results in the denial of agency and in the denial of ‒ the inability to locate ‒ responsibility. Just as mutually exclusive (politically and ethically) actions can be attributed to a single character simultaneously (since the character rotates between different actantial functions), the same corporation form, which has itself become synonymous with conspiracy, describes any type of social structure. While 1970s conspiracy thrillers still presuppose a secret conspiratorial power endowed with agency, a conspiracy that the lone hero will at least try to expose and either succeed or fail, in hyperlink conspiracy thrillers like Traffic and Syriana the conspiracy is no longer a secret power but part of the very structure of contemporary international, global relations. The notion of a secret provides a high degree of epistemological certainty: it does not preclude the possibility of knowing or uncovering the truth. On the contrary, since in a globalized world not all aspects of a phenomenon are immediately available or visible, what remains hidden remains so only because a total view is impossible, not because there are some sinister secret powers purposefully trying to harm us. Thus, while in earlier conspiracy films the problem facing the protagonist was the lack of access to information, the contemporary con thriller protagonist has the opposite problem: an overabundance of information and a proliferation of connections. Paranoia is no longer an irrational projection of connections between things that are not really connected, because now the paranoid’s projected connections have become real: there are no insignificant or irrelevant details to which he attributes undue significance, and the connections between things are no longer imaginary because all things are, indeed, interconnected. When everything can be considered, simultaneously, both a cause and effect of something else, the result is not a greater understanding of the world, but the further withdrawal of the world into ethical, political, psychological and epistemological obscurity. As Peter Knight points out, ‘“Everything Is Connected” can function as the operating principle not just for conspiracy theory, but also for epidemiology, ecology, risk theory, systems theory, complexity theory, theories of globalization... and... intertextuality’ (205). Conspiracy now describes the very structure of the global economy, which some economists consider as a form of self-organizing complex system that is both unpredictable and uncontrollable (213). Traditional models of causality do not hold for complex, self-organized systems: ‘There is no longer


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an obvious correlation between cause and effect: small causes can produce large effects, and conversely, large causes can have little effect on the overall system at all.... Precisely because everything is connected it is impossible to work out how one thing leads to another’ (214). Complex systems are uncontrollable: ‘The remarkable thing about distributed systems is not that no one is in charge as that they act as if there were a plotting intelligence behind their behaviour’ (215): this is ‘conspiracy without conspiracy’. In a world where everything is connected, it becomes harder to diagram the precise directions of influence and connections, or to isolate events from one another and point out their specific causes and effects. The geopolitical thriller Syriana is a case in point: the film tries to map the complex links that bind oil companies, law firms and Middle Eastern regimes by exploring the political, economic, legal, and social effects of the oil industry as they are experienced by a CIA operative, an energy analyst, a Washington attorney, and a young unemployed Pakistani migrant worker in an Arab country in the Persian Gulf. Similarly, The Insider and The Constant Gardener dramatize the imbrication of politics, journalism and health care with business interests; that is to say, the corporatization (routinization) of conspiracy. Once different kinds of political, economic and social bodies share the same corporate form, conspiracy no longer refers to a secret intention to do harm; instead, ‘the contemporary discourse of conspiracy gives narrative expression to the possibility of conspiracy without conspiring, with the congruence of vested interests that can only be described as conspiratorial, even when we know that there probably has been no deliberate plotting’ (Knight 32).

Conclusion According to Anthony Vidler, affective states that become dominant at a particular point in history reflect the culture of the time: melancholy was the privileged affective state in the Romantic period, multiple personality or hysteria (multiple personality was not originally distinguished from hysteria) in the latter half of the nineteenth century, schizophrenia and depression in the twentieth century.9 Indeed, Inception’s reworking of the conspiracy thriller genre seems to point to a qualitatively new type of paranoia. While the older type of paranoia asked ‘What is the real, secret motive behind this action or event?’ ‒ that is to say, the autonomy of the doer was not in question, but only his ability to interpret correctly the significance of events/actions ‒ the question around which Inception

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revolves is ‘Are my actions/thoughts really my own?’ In other words, in question is the autonomy or agency of the subject, rather than the correct or incorrect meaning/interpretation of his actions. Inception takes the co-optation of the private by the public to its paradoxical extreme, the infinite expansion of one’s private realm: the idea that any meaning ‘out there’ is bound to be colored by one’s own subconscious means the ultimate extinction of the private. If others’ dreams are colored by my subconscious, the self has become absolutely porous. We all share the same dream, the same subconscious: paranoia slides closer to schizophrenia. We could perhaps understand the generic transformation within the conspiracy thriller ‒ the slide from paranoia to schizophrenia ‒ through Ian Hacking’s notion of the ‘looping effect’ inherent in every discourse. In Rewriting the Soul (1995) Hacking contends that the first multiple personality ‘epidemic’ was precipitated by the emergence of the ‘new sciences of memory’ (psychology and psychiatry) in the latter half of the nineteenth century. In particular, he attributes the rise of an epidemic to the ‘looping effect’ inherent in every discourse: an epidemic is precipitated by a significant transformation in an object of discourse in response to the evolution of the discourse itself. Because the object of discourse is placed under new descriptions that were not originally available, the object as such is, however slightly, modified. For instance, in the case of multiple personality, the ‘looping effect’ refers to the way in which the discourse of the multiple contributed to the ‘production’ (the ‘making up’) of multiples, who, in turn, ‘learned’ to behave in ways conforming to the discourse that had produced them. The increasing vagueness and instability of diagnostic criteria in the second half of the nineteenth century eventually created the conditions under which it became possible for an increasing number of people to be diagnosed as multiples. Do conspiracy thrillers contribute to the denial of agency in contemporary culture, thereby rendering paranoia as its dominant structure of feeling? Are they irrational oversimplifications or do they call attention to the complexities of the new global order and offer alternative ways of understanding it? Mark Fenster criticizes conspiracy theory, first, for failing as a political practice because ‘it does not offer an effective political plan once the plot has been uncovered,’ and, second, for relying ‘on an all-American ideology of rugged individualism’ (quoted in Knight 21). On the other hand, Jodi Dean welcomes the conspiracy text and its attending paranoia ‘as a sign of healthy populist dissent’ (Knight 22).10 In Intrigue: Espionage and Culture Allan Hepburn argues that it is precisely through destabilizing traditional notions of causality, agency, responsibility and


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identity that conspiracy texts engage our political imaginary. If ‘narratives of intrigue are plotted to satisfy the desire to know as that desire relates to ethics and politics’ (Hepburn 19), then, Hepburn claims, ignorance ‒ and its manifestation, paranoia ‒ functions as a resistance to ideology. Precisely through his ignorance, the ‘detective’ investigating the conspiracy, and the viewer identifying with the detective, resists ideology since he doesn’t know enough, but he is forced to act nevertheless. Ignorance and paranoia ‒ acting without knowing the consequences of one’s actions,11 and acting in response to the paranoid belief that every external act or event hides a secret motive or intent ‒ are, for Hepburn, ‘indispensable in the making of political subjects’ (23). I wonder, however, what happens when the connections the paranoid subject projects between things become real; when all things are, indeed, interconnected. How do we make sense of a world in which there is no more room for projected or imaginary connections, a transparent world that remains opaque precisely because of its transparency? If conspiracy used to be the poor man’s cognitive map of an increasingly complex world, what happens when the world becomes indistinguishable from the map?

Notes Introduction 1.

2. 3.

4. 5.

Recent studies of the representation of madness and mental illness in film and literature continue to testify to the unresolved conflict between essentialist/scientific and culturalist/constructivist theories. In Images of Idiocy: The Idiot Figure in Modern Fiction and Film, Martin Halliwell acknowledges that ‘[t]he difficulty in tracing the history of the concept is how to move between studies of real ‒ that is, biological and neurological ‒ cases of idiocy and what Roland Barthes would call ‘mythologies’ of idiocy as represented on a cultural level’ (29). See Stephen Harper, Madness, Power, and the Media (2009). See Simon Cross, Mediating Madness: Mental Distress and Cultural Representation (2010). On the opposite end of the spectrum, in Movies and the Modern Psyche (2007), Sharon Packer proposes that with the decline of psychoanalysis and the rise of neuropsychiatry there has been a shift from the psychological to the supernatural, with religion resurfacing as a retreat in the current age of anxiety. See Arthur Shimamura, ‘Psychocinematics: Issues and Directions’ in Psychocinematics: Exploring Cognition at the Movies, ed. Arthur P. Shimamura (2013), 1-26. Significantly, the continuity between dreaming and movie-watching is one of the central areas of investigation in recent neuroscientific research. In ‘The Neuroscience of Inception,’ for instance, Jonah Lehrer argues that dreaming and movie-watching are parallel experiences. Lehrer draws attention to one of the results of Uri Hasson’s experiment, in which a magnetic resonance imaging scanner provides a time series of 3-D images of brain activity, and ISC [inter-subject correlation] analysis measures similarities in brain activity across viewers: although highly structured movies produced a strong inter-subjective correlation, there were certain regions of the brain that did not tick together across viewers. The viewers’ response was synchronized in the visual cortex and in the areas of the brain related to touch, but the prefrontal cortex ‒ an area associated with logic, analysis and self-awareness ‒ remained unsynchronized, indeed largely inactive: ‘Our results show a clear segregation between regions engaged during self-related introspective processes and cortical regions involved in sensorimotor processing. Furthermore, self-related regions were inhibited during sensorimotor processing. The common idiom “losing yourself in the act” receives here a clear neurophysiological underpinnings’ (3). A similar pattern is observed in dreaming: ‘the prefrontal cortex goes quiet and the visual cortex becomes even more active’ (3).



7. 8.



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For an example of Münsterberg-inspired film analysis, see Ayako Saito, ‘Hitchcock’s Trilogy: A Logic of Mise en Scène,’ 200-249. Starting from the premise that each film in Hitchcock’s trilogy ‒ Vertigo, Psycho and North by Northwest ‒ deals with the traumatic loss of an object, Saito examines the films in terms of three psychic processes known from psychoanalysis (repression, denial and repudiation), identifying particular cinematic techniques corresponding to the three psychical structures (melancholia, mania and paranoia/schizophrenia). In short, she posits that certain mental disorders are ‘objectified’ in particular cinematic styles that ‘correspond’ to them. See Jacques Derrida’s critique of Foucault’s attempt to write a ‘history of madness’ as ‘an archaeology of silence’ in Writing and Difference, 31-63. Indeed, Dreyfus acknowledges that his definition of psychopathology ‒ the expansion or generalization of content to context, the creation of a rigid, one-dimensional world ‒ might not be entirely correct. Having introduced the notion of the clearing (the dimension or style of an individual’s world, a dimension that is historically and culturally constituted), he suddenly recuperates depth psychology’s terminology (‘recovery’, ‘excavation’) by drawing attention to the inherent multiplicity of this dimension/clearing: ‘When a patient’s world becomes totalized and one-dimensional, other ways of behaving endure from earlier days. These marginal stances, interpretations, and practices are not taken up into the one-dimensional clearing precisely because they are experienced as too fragmentary and trivial. The therapist must recover and focus these lost possibilities’ (xxii). Žižek goes as far as to claim that the fictions we create reflect our most authentic self, which is usually suppressed by various social demands. Our real self is performed on stage, within the safer framework of ‘fiction.’ Our mistake is not that we take fictions too seriously but that we do not take them seriously enough. For example, when a video-gamer adopts a sadistic persona, we tend to think that they are trying to compensate for their powerlessness in real life. On the contrary, we should acknowledge that this virtual persona might be their true psychic self, which, because of social constraints, they are not allowed to enact. From this point of view, the insane occupy a privileged position of authenticity, since they are the only ones free to enact their true selves, which the rest of us are forced to suppress. A series of films explores this notion of mental illness as ‘the new sincerity’ or ‘the new authenticity’, some naively (Forrest Gump, I Am Sam), others more critically (The Idiots). Stephen Harper’s discussion of increasingly positive representations of madness, and of the shift in narrative point of view from the third to the first person (in films like Spider, Keane, Julien Donkey Boy, A Beautiful Mind, Quills, The Aviator, Shutter Island, and Pollock) draws attention to the subtle ways in which the popular discourse of madness actually rein-



forces psychiatric hegemony: ‘Many of the films … articulate a Freudian/ Modernist commitment to the notion of a “true self.” … This preoccupation with the revelation of an authentic self reinforces not only the ideological values of individualism and self-reliance but also the authority of psychiatric discourse, which is grounded in the notion of the transparent, rational cogito whose purity must be re-established through psychiatric intervention’ (98).

1. 1.

2. 3. 4.

The Story of Attention Mike Jay and Michael Neve, ‘Introduction,’ xv. In his 1891 study The Neuroses of Development, the Scottish psychiatrist Sir Thomas Clouston proclaimed ‘[t]he question of mental degeneracy, quite apart from idiocy or technical imbecility or insanity … of enormous social importance’ (T.S. Clouston 30). Distinguishing the mentally degenerate from the insane by virtue of the former’s complete lack of humanity, he argued that the mentally degenerate far too easily cross the line separating the criminal from the noncriminal: ‘If we are scientific enough or curious enough to hunt out their family histories we shall find the neuroses in abundance ‒ idiocy, deformity, epilepsy, insanity, criminality, ne’er-do-wellness, drinking, unpracticability, odd religiousness and consumption’ (30). At the time, almost any threat to established social customs was seen as a sign of insanity. For instance, in ‘Dexterity and the Bend Sinister’ (Proceedings at the Meetings of the Members of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, 1907), Sir James CrichtonBrowne expressed his concern over the ‘periodical outbreaks of ambidexterity’ as well as ‘vegetarianism, hatlessness, or anti-vaccination, and other aberrant forms of belief’ which, in his opinion, threatened to ‘upset our whole social life, introduce hopeless confusion and multiply accidents of all kinds’ (Browne 23-24). He blamed ambidextral culture for ‘the enormous enlargement of our already overgrown lunatic asylums’; after all, he reasoned, ‘[r]ight-handedness is woven in the brain; to change the pattern you must unravel its tissues’ (25). Gustave le Bon, ‘The Crowd,’ 152. At the same time, excessive self-reflection was often considered as perverse or as degenerate as the lack of it. Nordau saw all forms of psychopathology as essentially sexual in nature: ‘In the success of unhealthy tendencies in art and literature, no quality of their authors has so large and determining a share as their sexual psychopathy. All persons of unbalanced minds ‒ the neurasthenic, the hysteric, the degenerate, the insane ‒ have the keenest scent for perversions of a sexual kind’ (185). The popularity and power of Nordau’s discourse of degeneration ‘lay precisely in its vagueness ‒ its ability to be pressed into the service of


5. 6.



9. 10. 11.


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very different social and political agendas’ (Jenny Bourne Taylor, ‘Psychology at the fin de siècle’, 16). For instance, Nordau writes that the physician, ‘especially if he has devoted himself to the special study of nervous and mental maladies, recognizes at a glance, in the fin-de-siècle disposition, in the tendencies of contemporary art and poetry, in the life and conduct of the men who write mystic, symbolic and ‘decadent’ works, and the attitude taken by their admirers in the tastes and aesthetic instincts of fashionable society, the confluence of two well-defined conditions of disease, with which he is quite familiar, viz. degeneration (degeneracy) and hysteria, of which the minor stages are designated as neurasthenia’ (15). See The Movies Begin: A Treasury of Early Cinema (1894-1913). Experimentation and Discovery. Kino International, 2002. It is instructive to juxtapose Nordau’s account of degenerates’ ‘defective attention’ with early French film theory. For Nordau, when a perception arouses a representation, which in turn provokes a series of other associated representations, the healthy mind suppresses those representations that are contradictory to or not rationally connected with the first perception; by contrast, early film theorists (e.g. Jean Epstein) praised cinema’s potential to bypass the automated, rational association of ideas, encouraging instead the free, playful association of contradictory or irrational ideas. Interestingly, photographers ‒ assumed to produce objective visual records of degeneracy ‒ were not immune to degeneracy. In his paper ‘Naturalistic Photography and Art’, read at the meeting of the Photographic Society in 1893, P.H. Emerson observed that photography, ‘when not scientific or topographical, is a pastime dangerous in many respects, as apt to foster morbid vanity in the degenerate.’ See P.H. Emerson, Naturalistic Photography for Students of the Art, 3rd ed., 1899 (New York: Arno Press, 1973). Welcome Library Collection. The idea that the body contains only a limited amount of energy or ‘nerve force’, which is rapidly exhausted by the pressures of modern life, was predominant at the turn of the century. Fin de siècle sexologist Richard KrafftEbing drew on nineteenth-century ideas of the nervous system as a network of electrical circuits distributing limited amounts of energy. See Richard A. Kaye, ‘Sexual Identity at the fin de siècle’, 53-73. Taylor 26. Janet quoted in Nordau 111. Certain peculiarities or pathologies, such as excessive imagination, nervous irritability, and the tendency to symbolism, are found in all artists. But since Nordau admits it would be ridiculous to conclude that because of this, all artists are degenerate, he makes what he believes to be a weaker claim, namely that ‘art, without being properly a disease of the human mind, is yet an incipient, slight deviation from perfect health’ (553). Anne Harrington, ‘“A Feeling for the ‘Whole”: The Holistic Reaction in Neurology from the Fin de Siècle to the Interwar Years,’ 254.







There has been a revived interest in the phenomenon of ‘attention’ in contemporary film theory. Noël Carroll and William P. Seely explain that cognitivism explores the processes by which movies enlist and sustain our attention through variable framing, erotetic narration and criterial prefocusing. David Bordwell’s cognitive approach to cinema also explores attention in order to elucidate those fairly generic features of human organisms that account for movies’ ability to cross class, cultural and educational barriers. See Noël Carroll and William P. Seely, ‘Cognitivism, Psychology, and Neuroscience: Movies as Attentional Engines’, 53-75 and David Bordwell, ‘The Viewer’s Share: Models of Mind in Explaining Film’, 29-52. Most cognitive studies, however, merely confirm filmmakers’ and viewers’ intuition ‒ what Carl Platinga calls ‘folk psychology’ ‒ about the central role attention plays in film viewing. For instance, neuroscientific studies have shown that emotion-related brain regions become activated when individuals experience an arousing event or when they watch someone else experience the same event. Cf. Bergson: ‘Your life in a waking state is a life of labor, even when you think you are doing nothing, for at every minute you have to choose and every minute exclude.’ Henri Bergson, Dreams, trans. Edwin E. Slosson (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1914), 52. Interestingly, the fin-de-siècle idea of consciousness as an inhibitory mechanism remains central to one of the most recent branches of cognitive film theory, neurocinematics. In The Neuro-Image: A Deleuzian Film-Philosophy of Digital Screen Culture, Patricia Pisters considers normal consciousness an inhibitory mechanism that prevents neuron mirroring, which happens automatically on a neurological level, from being fully executed. In one special form of schizophrenia ‒ echopraxia ‒ the patient’s mirror neurons are so strong that they automatically imitate everything they see at the speed of a reflex action. From Pisters’ point of view, then, the schizophrenic’s automatic neuron mirroring is a primary mental act, which, in the case of ‘normal’ people, is inhibited by consciousness. According to Pisters, recent neuroscientific research has discredited Münsterberg’s classical psychological insight that equates attention with conscious perception, both of which Münsterberg defined in terms of ‘selection’. ‘Neuroscientific experiments,’ Pisters claims, ‘have now indicated that it is useful to re-evaluate the classic distinction between the conscious (attention/awareness) and the unconscious (inattention/unawareness) and make a new distinction between attention and awareness’ (5). Experiments suggest that attention is not (yet) part of consciousness. Specifically, she points to the work of neuroscientist Victor Lamme, who has demonstrated that attention belongs to unconscious processes. See Pisters, ‘Illusionary Perception and Cinema: Experimental Thoughts on Film Theory and Neuroscience.’ ‘on the scientific reality of phenomena known as “double life,” “double consciousness,” and “second condition,” all states that may be either spontane-


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ous or artificially induced.’ [All translations from French into English are mine.] E. Azam, Amnésie périodique ou dédoublement de la personnalité, 16. 17. ‘In this second state, her intellectual and moral faculties, although different from those in her primary state, remain unaffected: she does not suffer from lack of judgment or from any delusions and hallucinations. I would even say that in this second state all her faculties seem more fully developed. This second state, in which she feels no physical pain, is far superior to her primary state.’ 18. ‘Most of the time amnesia is caused by the failure of an event to make a vivid enough impression on the brain. We do not forget because we cannot remember; we forget because the forgotten event has failed to leave an impression on the brain.’ 19. Edward B. Angell, A Case of Double Consciousness, 13. 20. By 1933 Shepherd Ivory Frantz would go so far as to claim that, ‘The individual with dual or multiple personality differs only in degree from the normal individual’ (ix). 21. Cavell’s theory of cinema as embodied thought leads us back to Münsterberg. Cavell suggests that cinema as such fulfills the mandate of experimental psychology: it objectively registers the cogito through its involuntary manifestations, or what he calls ‘somatograms’ (e.g. scribbling, body posture, etc.). 22. L.S. Forbes Winslow, ‘Spiritualistic Madness,’ 118. 23. In ‘The Criteria of Mental Abnormality’ (1898) George V. Dearborn had already emphasized the sociological sources of insanity: ‘Neither anatomical nor physiological nor psychological nor yet personal in a sense is the deranged subject’s defeat, but it is sociological and against the evolving purpose of the race. … To be insane is to be out of tune, not with the laws of individual psychology, of physiology, nor yet of the State but with a broader and more essential tendency ‒ the purpose of the world’ (509-510). He was also in the minority in classifying as a form of insanity only the derangement of a person’s understanding of cause and effect relationships: ‘Reason is the just comprehension of cause and effect, or common sense. Now only a part of the accepted varieties of insanity imply disturbance of this, the crowning power of the mind. Mania, e.g., is only an unusual hurrying of the psycho-physical action of the higher mammals involving as essential no disturbance other than one of a temporal sort. Melancholia is, on the other hand, a too long continuance of painful thoughts. It is in paranoia that we see a loss in reason in the technical sense of the word, for it is a disease characterized by a confusion of the relations of cause and effect quite as much as by the systematization of delusions based thereon’ (510). 24. While Münsterberg seemed to acknowledge the existence of the unconscious, it would be more precise to say that he considered the unconscious a mere shadow version of consciousness. Thus, when he argued that Beulah was not mind reading but reasoning unconsciously, he was implying that,



had she been conscious, she would have used exactly the same clues to make a logical deduction about what was going on ‒ she would have deduced the card each player would put down by secretly, but consciously, following the movements of their hands. Münsterberg tried to explain Beulah’s case by proposing that she had gradually developed a system whereby she unconsciously linked, in her mind, a specific suit of cards with a specific family member’s involuntary facial movement, a system that she had then slowly carried over and applied to letters. She was thus able to mind read the words that others were thinking of, although, significantly for Münsterberg, she would mind read in letters only ‒ not DOG, but D O G. This explanation demonstrates the extent to which Münsterberg’s defense of the scientific view of mind reading was still premised on an associationist model of the mind as internally disintegrated (particular facial movements were seen as corresponding to particular card suits) and on a similar notion of reality as composed of isolated signifiers (D O G) with no inherent meaning (DOG) and no law for attributing meaning to them other than the (random) law of (random) association. 25. The notion of doubling or splitting underlines all of Bergson’s definitions of matter and memory. Doubling or multiple personality is the substratum of our normal state; ‘Every moment of our life presents two aspects, it is actual and virtual, perception on the one side and memory on the other. Each moment of life is split up’ (Dreams 135). False recognition or déjà vu is an experience when one becomes conscious of this duplication which goes on constantly but unconsciously: one looks at oneself from the outside, as though one’s personality were duplicated, and whatever happens to one in such moments appears inevitable, i.e. as if it is a repetition of itself (déjà vu). Déjà vu is the evidence for the inherently split nature of the subject. 26. Bergson quoted in ‘Introduction’, Dreams, 14, my italics. 27. As H. Wildon Carr explains in his Preface to Dreams, Bergson’s concept of ‘mind-energy’ was meant to overcome dualism by suggesting ‘a new working principle in the biological and psychological sciences. The principle is that the great factor in evolution is a kind of unconsciousness … [which, however] is not an Absolute, as some metaphysicians have held. It is, on the contrary, a restriction of the consciousness which life possesses in right, a restriction contrived by life in order to fashion the instrumentality of efficient action’ (vii-viii).

2. 1. 2.

Photography and the Construction of Psychopathology at the Fin de Siècle Ian Hacking, Rewriting the Soul, 31. Stanley Cavell, The World Viewed, 128.


3. 4.

5. 6.

7. 8.


10. 11. 12. 13.

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Quoted in Jonathan Auerbach, ‘Caught in the Act: Self-consciousness and Self-rehearsal in Early Cinema,’ 94. The fin de siècle formalized self-reflexiveness. Crucial to the shift in this period within Freud’s work from Studies on Hysteria (1895) to Project for a Scientific Psychology (1895) and The Interpretation of Dreams (1899) was the relationship between ego-formation and narcissism. See Jan B. Gordon, ‘“Decadent Spaces”: Notes for a Phenomenology of the Fin de Siècle,’ 31-58. Auerbach 91. More than a hundred years later, in his book Physiognomy: The Science of Physiognomy Explained in the Form of Question and Answer, dedicated to Lavater, Frank Ellis would still defend the scientific status of physiognomy by underscoring its applicability to spheres other than science: physiognomy is useful to anyone, he claimed, from lovers trying to find their match to employers judging whom to hire and trust, from police officers trying to capture criminals to lawyers who can use some traits of the people they defend or prosecute to their advantage, as well as to ‘[m]esmerists, or to use a more fashionable name, hypnotists, [who] can find much in Physiognomy to guide them as to the best means to influence their patients, and medical men [who], knowing that many diseases are of mental origin, may find in the face some useful indication of the state of the mind’ (11). Quoted in Erwin N. Hiebert, ‘The Transformation of Physics,’ 242. The technique of the camera obscura was pioneered by medical men: Reinerus Gemma-Frisius and Giovanni Battista Della Porta. In the 1773 edition of his book Osteographia: The Anatomy of the Bones, William Cheselden, a surgeon at St. Thomas’ hospital, replaced his drawings with illustrations made with a camera obscura, which he found to be more accurate. For a history of photography and early cinematography, see Josef Maria Elder, History of Photography, especially 485-524. See also Kamilla K. Porter, Frames of Mind: An Investigation into the History of the Photography of Psychiatric Patients. Porter’s conclusions are based on her examination of photographs taken at Bethlem, Holloway, Colney Hatch, Hanwell, and the West Riding Asylum. Welcome Library Collection. Diamond’s photographs are reproduced in Joel-Peter Witkin, Harm’s Way: Lust and Madness, Murder and Mayhem: A Book of Photographs. Photographs of mentally ill patients were used for the first time to illustrate a medical text in Henri Dagonet Mentales’ Nouveau traité élémentaire et pratique de maladies mentales (1876). See Adrianne Burrows and Iwan Schumacher, Portraits of the Insane: The Case of Dr. Diamond. Porter, Frames of Mind, 2.5. Quoted in Adrianne Burrows and Iwan Schumacher, Portraits of the Insane: The Case of Dr. Diamond, 37. Tom Gunning, ‘In Your Face: Physiognomy, Photography and the Gnostic Mission of Early Film,’ 149.




16. 17.

18. 19.

20. 21. 22.


Tom Gunning argues that the stylized close-up of the human face in early European film was informed by psychiatric and psychological studies of facial physiognomy, specifically by the work of Duchenne, Charcot and Albert Londe in the 1870s and 1880s. ‘By means of electrodes he stimulates individual facial muscles, or groups of muscles, artificially producing a diverse range of expressions. However, the muscle contractions are transient: their irritability seems to weaken after a few seconds of continuous action. Hence the need to quickly photograph the expressions produced by electrophysiological stimulation.’ ‘facial muscles according to their expressive properties (the muscle of aggression, sadness, joy, lasciviousness, crying)’ In one of the commentary chapters, ‘The Highly Original Dr. Duchenne,’ R. Andrew Cuthbertson observes that, ‘Duchenne’s interests were quite different from those of the physiologists such as della Porta and Lavater, who had predicted nuances of character from the morphology of the human face. Duchenne was concerned not with facial morphology, but with the semiotic meaning of individual and groups of facial muscles as they portrayed particular emotions. … [However] [w]hile his Mécanisme de la Physionomie Humaine added a dimension of complexity to previous studies, it did not encompass the sequential nature of facial expression. … While Duchenne broke the facial mask into its individual constituent facial muscle actions, Muybridge fragmented movements of the whole body into a temporal serial sequence’ (The Mechanism of Human Facial Expression 231). Tom Gunning, ‘In Your Face’, 149. Ibid. 148. Conversely, R. Andrew Cuthbertson, Duchenne’s editor and translator, claims that Duchenne’s work remained pre-cinematic since ‘it did not encompass the sequential nature of facial expression. … While Duchenne broke the facial mask into its individual constituent facial muscle actions, Muybridge fragmented movements of the whole body into a temporal serial sequence’ (Cuthbertson 231). On the role of aesthetic considerations in medical training and diagnosis, and on the artistic intertextuality of images of health and illness, see Chapter 2 in Sander Gilman’s Picturing Health and Illness: Images of Identity and Difference. Phillip Prodger, ‘Photography and the Expression of the Emotions’, 400. Maudsley (author of The Physiology and Pathology of Mind, 1867) was instrumental in establishing evolutionary psychology in England and developing the concept of ‘moral insanity’. An important implication of the materialist theory of insanity was the belief in its hereditary nature. For Maudsley, ‘consciousness represents the end product of a network of reflexes moving between different parts of the body, nerve-centres and the brain via the spinal cord. These processes are hereditary; as the species develops, conscious responses become automatic, then instinctive, as impulses are transmitted between generations in the form of unconscious bodily memory.’ See Jenny Bourne Taylor, ‘Psychology at the fin de siècle,’ 13-31.


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23. Porter 4. 24. Studies of physical pathology cannot be isolated from the general popularity of comparative studies, which were laying the foundations of the new sciences of the mind, comparative ethnology, anthropology, and cultural studies. For example, in 1895 Felix Regnault used chronophotography to compare movements (climbing a tree or walking) across different ethnic groups, Baldwin Spencer shot the aboriginal tribes of Central Australia, and Augustin Kramer’s German expedition explored the islands of Melanysia and Micronisia. See the commentary to The Origins of Scientific Cinematography: The Pioneers. 25. Ian Jeffrey, Photography: A Concise History, 10. On the idea of photography as nature’s spontaneous reproduction, see Mary Warner Marien, Photography and Its Critics, 1-21. The notion of photography as a component of nature and as an idea predating the technical development of photography foreshadows Bazin’s ontology of the film image (film affects us as a thing of nature) and his notion of ‘total cinema.’ 26. ‘Like the chemist, the photographer of our times is confronted with the irritating irregularity of phenomena due to technological inaccuracies, variability in the sensitivity of the solution or in the measures used. The success of chemistry provides a good example of studying unstable objects in a methodical manner and demonstrates that it is possible to discover order within disorder.’ 27. ‘Freeing itself from the oppressive tutelage of the Fine Arts, henceforth serving as a guarantor of truth and a guide for the eye, photographic reproduction would attain a new form of legitimacy. Paradoxically, it was this newly earned autonomy that, beginning at the end of the century, authorized photography’s claims to art through the pictorialist approach.’ 28. Andre Gunthert, Albert Londe, 1. Londe was ‘a tourist from the field of science who uses scientific means for the benefit of photography. In the history of the medium in France, it is he who transposes the experimental results acquired through chronophotography into the language of amateur photographic practice.’ 29. ‘Unlike the devices used by Muybridge or Marey, devices that impose a specific scenography of shooting, unlike the first images of chronophotography, simple featureless silhouettes against a white or black background, Londe’s device allows for a range of uses and produces images that are real photographs, distinguished by their depth of field: it is the first camera to make sequential recording possible.’ 30. ‘Indeed, it is clear that if we want to capture life-like attitudes and movements, we must not arouse the attention of our involuntary models, who would otherwise not fail to believe themselves obliged to pose.’ 31. ‘Look, they say, at this portrait, in which the parts closest to us, the arms and the hands, are shockingly exaggerated... examine the distorted perspective.’




‘Si maintenant, une fois le document obtenu, on peut le multiplier à l’infini, les applications deviendront de suite plus nombreuses et plus utiles. … Tandis qu’autrefois il fallait se limiter, malgré soi du reste, à la seule reproduction des objets inanimés, maintenant le mouvement du modelé n’est plus un écueil, un obstacle; au contraire, on le recherché soit pour en faire analyse, soit pour donner plus d’animation, plus de vie aux compositions. La rapidité d’impression est donc encore une qualité a ajouter aux précédentes’ (La Photographie dans les arts, les sciences et l’industrie 6, 8). ‘If, once the record has been obtained it can be multiplied indefinitely, its applications will become more numerous. Whereas before it was necessary... to limit oneself to a single reproduction of inanimate objects, even if they were still, now the model’s movements are no longer an obstacle; on the contrary, one seeks moving subjects in order to analyze their movements or to produce more vivid, animated compositions. Thus, the speed with which the camera registers movement is yet another advantage we can add to the other advantages of photography.’ 33. ‘Monsieur Janssen, the famous astronomer, said of the photographic plate that it was the “retina of the scientist,” far superior to the human eye, because, on one hand it retains the trace of the phenomenon it registers and, on the other hand, in some cases, it sees more than the eye does.’ 34. ‘This excessive, even blind, precision, while valuable in some cases, will be more of a hindrance here. Thus, the photographer must compose the photograph in a way that draws attention to its main subject, he must light it so as to emphasize this or that aspect, he must make it appear natural and bring out what is habitual or most characteristic about the subject; in one word, he must do the same preparatory work that an artist does, even as, on the other hand, the special instrument he is using can, in some respects, alter the effects he has pre-visualized and pre-calculated.’ 35. ‘A logger in the woods, a fisherman by the river, will not seem out of place. A gentleman in a high hat and a frock coat would, however, ruin an otherwise successful photograph.’ 36. ‘In a turbulent landscape one must focus on the subject to which one wants to give the most importance. In the case of a portrait... the focus would be on the beard or the hair.’ 37. In chapter XI, titled ‘Applications de la photographie instantanée à l’étude du mouvement’ Frippet offers a short survey of the major contributions in the photographic study of movement: Muybridge’s studies of horses in motion (1872), M. Janssens’ photographic revolver, Marey’s studies of birds in flight, and Londe’s physiological studies at La Salpétrière. 38. ‘The portrait produced with an instantaneous camera, if made under favorable circumstances, will be much more interesting than that done by a professional photographer, for it will appear more animated and vivid. However, the snapshot portrait is distinguished by its randomness: the speed with which people’s facial expressions change far exceeds that of the





42. 43.

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camera, which fails to seize their best expression. The snapshot, requiring a lot of light, and thus longer exposure times, greatly accentuates facial features, lending them too much uniformity. Therefore, to achieve excellent results, one must make sure to pose the subject in the best possible light while making it appear natural.’ ‘On the other hand, by means of photography the surgeon, the doctor, is able to establish the extent of the lesions, their appearance, and to note their modifications, thereby complementing in the clearest possible way his own observations. Some diseases leave a stamp on the patient’s physiognomy, which goes unnoticed in an isolated case, but becomes typical if observed in other patients afflicted with the same disease. The comparison of photographs taken some years apart will, as Professor Charcot at the Salpêtrière has demonstrated, make it possible to describe the physiognomic features corresponding to this or that disease of the nervous system. This is important, because the type, once defined, remains etched in the doctor’s memory and may, in some cases, be of high diagnostic value.’ ‘In his clinic of diseases of the nervous system, Professor Charcot deals with a range of neurological diseases, including paralysis, hysteria, epilepsy, Huntington’s disease etc., which seem to present Photography with a challenge. It is necessary to study tremors, hysterical attacks, to analyze and deconstruct them. Hence the need for a special device that can take a number of shots at various intervals, as short or as long as we like. Consider, for example, the hystero-epileptic attack, which can be divided into perfectly distinct stages, each distinguished by particular rhythmic movements. The doctor wants to analyze: 1. the different stages of the attack, each characterized by the movements proper to it; 2. the movement itself.’ ‘There is absolutely nothing that determines the duration of the attack, so it is possible to adjust the speed of the camera to that of the attack. In addition, the doctor must have control over the camera so that he can turn it on at the precise moment he deems appropriate.’ Ulrich Bauer quoted in Tom Gunning, ‘Bodies in Motion’, 26. ‘When a patient exhibits certain objective, recurring symptoms ‒ atrophy, various types of muscular contractures, special attitudes/postures, deformations, etc. ‒ they are immediately drawn or photographed, and one could even say that with the help of instantaneous photography we can break down, on paper, their abnormal movements, which would have been impossible to analyze with the desirable degree of precision in a simple clinical examination. Today the Salpêtrière photographs are preserved in the hospital’s photography collection, which is of great importance. In addition, the description of a number of poorly classified cases of nerve pathology would be singularly illuminated by their objective [photographic] representation. Does not the photograph of a palsy-stricken patient or of a hysteric stay longer in the mind than its analytic description?’



44. ‘It is a matter of preserving the trace of all pathological manifestations, whatever they might be, that have the power to visibly alter the patient’s appearance in terms of character, attitude, and facial features. The impartial and quickly collected photographic records have considerable medical value in that they produce a faithful image of the subject of study. Nude studies of pathological cases will, therefore, benefit tremendously from Photography; however, in order to reap the desired benefits it is necessary, as Professor Charcot has aptly remarked, to produce equally good nude records of normality.’ 45. Charles Musser examines the debate around photography and truth (and by implication the distinction between ‘objectivity’ and ‘truth’) by formulating the question thus: do the precision and supposed neutrality of photography prove that photography captures the truth, or is it that precisely because of its precise and factual nature photography misses the truth? See Charles Musser, ‘Changing Conceptions of Truth in Photography, Chronophotography and Cinematography, 1887-1900,’ 69-90. 46. ‘Since the middle of the century, photography has been promising us “the instant.” Everything seemed to suggest that it would succeed. However, no one expected that the greater speed with which the camera registered movement, instead of producing a more accurate record of the movement, would suspend it in a strange visual display. Drops of blood, bodies awkwardly contorted, absurd body postures: in these images, which appear even more still precisely because should have been more animated, the involuntary reveals itself in an unexpectedly shocking way.’ 47. ‘The emotional effect produced by the snapshot is not due only to its isolation of a phenomenon that had never before been seen. Its fundamental emotional effect derives from the fact that it represents the human body in an anomalous manner that reduces it to an object: in a way, the inverse of the ideal of the portrait.’ 48. ‘Muybridge’s sequential photography is premised on the strictly inverse assumption. Arresting the movement at an any-instant-whatever, the photograph detaches one insignificant instant from the succession of instants: “an un-eventful event” as Thierry de Duve beautifully puts it... the snapshot transforms the pose into a “bad moment”.’ 49. On the implications of the production of multiple reproductions of reproductions, see Mary Warner Marien, Photography and Its Critics: A Cultural History, Chapter 1. 50. The idea of insanity as involving a loss of control over one’s actions ‒ e.g. in the case of amnesia or multiple personality, the inability to recall what one has done in an alternative (second) state or the inability to ‘collect’ oneself ‒ presupposes an objectivist epistemology, which treats alternative personalities (second, third, etc. states) as static objects. However, as Donald M. Maier explains in his essay ‘Descrying the Truth of the Moment,’ although with respect to public rather than personal history, objectivist epistemology


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relies on an erroneous separation of the subject (or the historian) from his experiences: The concept of empty time presupposes a subject-object dualism in which the existence of time depends upon the existence of the subject who uses time. … The objectification of time is consistent with the epistemological tenet that it is both possible and desirable to maintain a separation between the self and what it experiences. This separation intends to safeguard the self’s optimal position from which it makes judgments regarding human affairs. … This approach to history treats the past as a static object whose truth can be clearly and definitively stated for all times. It ignores the effect of interpretation on the expression of history’s truth. (167) In reality, the self does not stand outside one’s experiences, outside time; thus, its ‘alternative’ experiences ‒ the multiple self in the case of dissociated personality, for example ‒ cannot be said to exist outside the self. There is no centralized agency, ‘the self’, that judges whatever happens to it; rather, every experience ‒ voluntary or involuntary ‒ is always already a form of judgment. From this point of view, the idea of multiple personality, which implies the existence of a single, ‘normal’ self separated from its other ‘degenerate’ versions, is untenable; in fact, multiple personality seems to be an authentic representation of the ontological state of the self rather than a particular aberration of mental health. If it is true that we experience time before we measure it, the notion of ‘amnesia’, which presupposes an objectivist epistemology of time and subjectivity, makes no sense. Paradoxically, the most natural state to us appears to be precisely the state of ‘dissociation of personality’ insofar as no single temporal experience (the second state or the third state, for instance) occupies a privileged position from which it can objectify the other ones. 51. Rae Beth Gordon, ‘From Charcot to Charlot’, 108. 52. At the same time, however, as Martin Jay has shown, writers and artists like T. S. Eliot, Kafka, and Duchamp, resentful of the emerging mental sciences and their hyper-subjectivity, represented an equally strong anti-psychological strand in fin de siècle culture (a tendency reflected also in the abstract, non-representational art of artists like Kandinsky). See Martin Jay, ‘Modernism and the Specter of Psychologism,’ 352-365. 53. Henri F. Ellenburger, The Discovery of the Unconscious, 111. 54. One of the ways in which the new sciences of mind attempted to establish their authority was by emphasizing the link between their epistemology and the popular history of mental illness. For instance, Charcot sought to affirm his somatic view of illness by foregrounding the visual continuity between photographs of the insane included in the Nouvelle Iconographie de la Salpêtrière and the first French illustrated atlases of mental illness, for


55. 56.


58. 59. 60.

61. 62.



instance Esquirol’s: ‘For Charcot, older images from high and popular art had validity as proof if their visual structures could be echoed in modern, high-tech media such as photography’ (Gilman, Picturing Health and Illness, 22-23). Micale, ‘Discourses of Hysteria’ 76. Tom Gunning reminds us that Charcot was not a neutral observer merely recording the hysterical attacks of his patients: ‘Charcot occasionally provoked an attack of hysterical epilepsy in his female patients by means of a sudden flash of brilliant electrical light within a darkened room, the very flash which made the photograph of their reactions possible’ (‘Bodies in Motion’ 26). Gunning follows the influence of this freezing of the body-in-motion in absurd and ungainly postures in the work of Dega, Rodin and Duchamp, linking their representations of the body out of control, the sick and decadent body, to Charcot’s hysterical bodies. Charcot viewed the lack of bodily control recorded in the photograph as an indication of disease. Rae Beth Gordon, 94. Porter, Frames of Mind 2.12 New York Times, February 23, 1908. Belgian Arthur Van Gehuchten’s Les Malades nerveuses (1920), illustrated with filmstrips and photos, provides another instance of the use of cinematography in neurology. Van Gehuchten did all the work on his films, most of which consist of sequences of gait abnormalities. Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud, ‘The Case of Fraulein Anna O.,’ 141-144. At the turn of the century the concepts of mind and consciousness developed by Henri Bergson, William James, and Pierre Janet were more influential than Freud’s. As Micale points out, the most widely discussed book of psychology published in 1900 was not The Interpretation of Dreams but Des Indes à la Planète Mars (a long case history of a multiple personality) by Theodore Flournoy, founder of the Genevan school of psychology (Micale, ‘Introduction’ 8-10). ‘In accordance with the reputation now transferred from Charcot to Freud, the transformation in the understanding of clinical hysteria would take place through a veritable revolution that would shift the emphasis from “the visual” to “the aural.” If there is one adjective on which neurology rests... it is the “the visual.” It was the first adjective neurologists applied in their studies, and one whose importance Freud did not fail to emphasize in the “obituary” he dedicated, in 1893, to his former mentor. In Charcot’s time, this term signified the rigorous principles of observation on which Charcot’s clinic was based, in opposition to established medical dogmas. Once that context disappeared, Freud substituted for it a very different form of opposition. In psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, to privilege language ‒ not only to ‘filter’ ‘the eye’ through the ‘ear’ but to completely neglect ‘the eye’ ‒ is now considered common sense.’ As he tries to explain


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this shift, Londe reminds us to take into account the fact that nineteenthcentury science had a different understanding of the relationship between the mind and the body: ‘Succédant à un âge où le symptôm était considere de manière abstraite, l’effort médical de son temps parte tout entire sur l’établissement du lien entre les manifestations extérieures du l’affection et son siege organique: un combat contre l’apparence. Pour forcer l’opacité du corps, la science du XIX siècle privilégie deux approches concurrences: la physiologie expérimentale, représentée par Claude Bernard ou Étienne Jules Marey, et la méthode anatomoclinique, c’est-a-dire la conjonction de l’observation sur le vif (clinique) et de la vérification par l’autopsie (anatomie pathologique)’ (Photographie Moderne 103). ‘Coming on the heels of an age that considered the symptom in a rather abstract manner, the medical science [of Charcot’s time] sought to establish connections between the external manifestations of a disease and its organic seat: a struggle against appearances. In its attempt to render the body transparent, nineteenth century science employed two approaches: experimental physiology, represented by Claude Bernard or Étienne Jules Marey, and the clinicopathological method, that is to say, the combination of clinical observation with pathological anatomy (evidence provided by autopsy).’ 64. One of the most significant paradigm shifts in cultural histories of modernity is the shift from le vraisemblable (the realistic) to le reel (the real). In La Photographie Moderne Albert Londe writes: ‘Au XIX-e siècle, c’est par l’observation et la description que le roman impose sa dignité esthétique. Ce renversement de la hiérarchie des genres illustre une redéfinition profonde de l’économie artistique: le passage d’un art entendu comme facture, ou le vraisemblable prend nécessairement le pas sur le vrai, a un art qui fait de l’étude du réel son principal objet’ (162). [‘In the nineteenth century, it was through its powers of observation and description that the novel earned aesthetic legitimacy. This reversal in the hierarchy of genres reflects a profound redefinition of the notion of artist economy: there is a shift from art as a mere reproduction of reality, in which the “realistic” takes precedence over “the real”, to art that makes ‘the real’ its main object of study.’] For instance, the new novel ‒ Balzac, Flaubert, Les Goncourts ‒ was concerned with the spontaneous, the simple, the crude, the immediate, and the natural. 65. The limitations of photography’s uses in psychiatry were rooted in photography’s claims to universality. H. Oppenheim, a leading nineteenth-century neurologist, justified the analysis of static representations of expression by referring to Lessing’s Laocoön. According to Oppenheim, static images of expression could serve as means of examining the total range of expressions. Charles Darwin was among the first to question the assumed objectivity of psychiatric photography: ‘Though photographs are incomparably better for exhibiting expression than any drawing, I believe it is quite necessary to study the previous appearance of the countenance, its changes, however



small, and the living eyes, in order to form any safe judgment’ (Darwin quoted in Gilman, Seeing the Insane, 182-183). 66. According to Rae Beth Gordon, the undermining of photography’s original Gnostic impulse was carried on by early cinema, particularly through early film comedies’ appropriation of hysteria’s ‘corporeal pathologies’. 67. In 1897, John MacIntyre, author of the first X-ray shots, showed his work to the Philosophical Society in Glasgow and the Royal Society in London. The Brazilian surgeon Posadas illustrated his lectures with short films of lung operations. In 1909 Jean Comandon, whose doctoral thesis submitted to L’académie des sciences was a film on syphilis, used film to study microbes from the intestines of mice. Between 1905 and 1908 Osvaldo Polimanti studied the neuro-motor systems of animals, shooting several films to study the change in a dog’s movements following surgery to the cerebellum. In 1911 Ludwig Munch of Darmstadt became the first man to employ film to teach mathematics: his drawings were used to make flipbooks that served as learning aids. The new medium of film proved equally suited to condensation, a kind of ‘temporal understatement’ (e.g. Wilhelm Pfeffer’s 1898-1900 time-lapse cinematography of plant growth and movement) as well as to expansion, a kind of ‘temporal exaggeration’ (e.g. Julius Ries’s 1908 film Division of a Sea-Urchin Egg). See The Origins of Scientific Cinematography: The Pioneers.

3. 1.

2. 3.

Cinema and Psychoanalysis ‘If the transition from physiognomy to phrenology would lead, in 1861, to Broca’s neurological theory of brain localization, the transition from physiognomy to the alienist’s photographic portrait, with all its ideological assumptions, cannot be traced as easily, because it does not ultimately correspond to the object of psychiatry. Not only because the removal of any dynamic aspect renders the image inadequate but, more importantly, because at the end of the nineteenth century the contributions of depth psychology, and of psychoanalysis in particular, would show that the discipline of psychiatry is concerned with listening rather than looking. And so, for a quarter of a century, illustration disappeared from psychiatric literature... awaiting the appearance of new audiovisual techniques.’ Freud 175-176. Freud did not believe cinema capable of conveying psychoanalytic ideas; instead, he chose a child’s toy, the mystic writing pad, to explain the functioning of the psyche. According to Laura Marcus, the purpose of these optical analogies ‒ Freud refers to the photographic apparatus and the microscope ‒ is ‘to move away from a biologistic model of mental life, in which physical events are held to take place in specific areas of the brain, and to substitute an account of psychical (or, indeed, virtual) locality’ (34). Challenging the familiar account of


4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17.

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Freud’s theory as a ‘depth psychology’, Marcus teases out aspects of his work that resonate closely with the ideas of modernist thinkers such as Georg Simmel and Walter Benjamin, particularly with their conceptualization of the shock experience of modernity and of consciousness as a buffer against the shock of the new (an idea Simmel develops in his influential essay ‘The Metropolis and Mental Life’). Specifically, Marcus draws attention to the similarity between the language used by the dream theorists Freud quotes in The Interpretation of Dreams ‒ Freud notes the way in which dreams pick up passing glimpses of people or things, or odd fragments from one’s daily life ‒ and the language used by fin de siècle commentators to describe the experience of modernity: ‘kaleidoscopic, impressionistic, anonymous’ (16). See Laura Marcus, ‘Introduction: Histories, Representations, Autobiographics in The Interpretation of Dreams,’ 1-65. Freud did not elaborate on the kaleidoscopic analogies of the dream theorists he references and instead shifted his optical analogy to the microscope and to Francis Galton’s composite photography, which he considered analogous to the process of condensation in dream-work. In Bodies and Machines Mark Seltzer posits that the correlation of the visible and the statistical in Galton’s work are closely allied to ‘the imperative of making everything, including interior states, visible and governable’ (95) and to the rise of statistics with its fascination for generic mental images, such as Quetelet’s ‘average man.’ Stephen Kern expounds on this in The Culture of Time and Space. Freud’s main disciples in Europe included Carl Jung, Alfred Adler, Wilhelm Steckel and Sandor Ferenczi, and in America Abraham A. Brill, James Putnam, Ernest Jones, William White and Morton Prince. Eli Zaretsky, Secrets of the Soul, 66-67. Lawrence R. Samuel, Shrink, 6. Nathan Hale, Freud in America, 17. Ibid. 55. Ibid. 52. William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, 234-235. Hale, 231, 220-221. Micale, ‘The Modernist Mind’, 10. Rae Beth Gordon, ‘From Charcot to Charlot: Unconscious Imitation and Spectatorship in French Cabaret and Early Cinema,’ 93-125. Tom Gunning, ‘In Your Face,’ 141-172. See Stephen Prince, ‘Introduction: The Dark Genre and Its Paradoxes,’ 1-15. In his Critique of Cynical Reason (1983), Peter Sloterdjik singles out the impostor as the embodiment of the political, economic and psychological instability of the Weimar Republic. For Kittler, doppelgängers and impostors in German silent films function as metaphors for the screen and its aesthetic (277), while Thomas Elsaesser reads Weimar cinema’s fascination with ventriloquists’ dummies, waxworks, shadows and golems, in short with the confusion between art and life, as foregrounding the epistemological



problem of the possibility of other minds and the ontological problem of other worlds (‘No End to Nosferatu,’ 84). Sharon Packer suggests that the double in cinema appears at the moment when photo and film discoveries compounded Freudian concepts about double consciousness. 18. Casper Tyjberg, ‘Shadow-Souls and Strange Adventures: Horror and the Supernatural in European Silent Film,’ 15-40. 19. Paul Leni’s Waxworks (1924) shifts the focus away from the intersection of madness with the discourse of medium specificity and instead links madness, on the level of narrative rather than on the meta-level of medium, to the discourse of doubling, impersonation, and imitation, which would dominate films in the 1920s. In the film, the proprietor of a wax museum hires a young poet to write a ‘back-story’ for his wax sculptures of Harun al-Rashid, Ivan the Terrible, and Jack the Ripper. In the first story Al-Rashid falls in love with Maimune, the poor baker’s wife. While Al-Rashid is visiting Maimune, her husband, Assad, sneaks into Al-Rashid’s palace and steals his magic wishing ring by chopping off the ruler’s wax sculpture’s hand. When Assad returns to Maimune, she hides Al-Rashid in the baking-oven. The guards rush in to arrest Assad for murdering Al-Rashid, but Maimune uses the wishing ring to make the dead Al-Rashid ‘magically appear’ out of the oven. The second story centers on Ivan the Terrible, who takes pleasure in watching his victims die after poisoning them. Ivan singles out his PoisonMixer, who takes pity on one of the victims, as the next one to be poisoned. The Poison-Mixer, however, secretly writes Ivan’s name on the next hourglass. When Ivan is invited to a nobleman’s wedding he becomes paranoid and exchanges clothes with another nobleman, who, dressed as Ivan, is killed as soon as they arrive at the wedding. When he hears that he has been poisoned, Ivan races to the torture chamber to reverse his fate by turning the hourglass over. Driven to madness by his paranoia, he spends the rest of his days turning the hourglass over and over again. Upon finishing these two stories, the poet realizes that Jack the Ripper’s wax sculpture has come to life. The wax model threatens the poet and his beloved, the waxwork owner’s daughter, and, before they know it, they are on the run, pursued by multiple images of Jack. Just then, the poet wakes up and realizes it was all a paranoid dream. The film’s premise ‒ inventing stories inspired by wax sculptures, i.e., duplications of real people ‒ is mirrored within the stories, which are also about duplication and impersonation: the Caliph keeps a wax sculpture of himself in bed as protection from potential enemies; Ivan the Terrible impersonates another man to protect himself from potential assassins; and Jack the Ripper appears in multiple versions of himself. 20. ‘Fashions Have a Clinical Test,’ New York Times, April 25, 1926. 21. Mark Micale, ‘The Modernist Mind: A Timeline,’ 5. 22. Freud quoted in Stephen Heath, ‘Cinema and Psychoanalysis: Parallel Histories,’ 27. Although Freud initially viewed the American reception of psychoanalysis ‒ which he attributed to the pluralism and openness of


23. 24. 25. 26.

27. 28.

29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34.

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American society ‒ with satisfaction, its increasing popularization began to frustrate him. Simplifying most of Freud’s more complex ideas (e.g. the Oedipus complex and children’s sexuality), playing down his emphasis on aggression and sexuality and emphasizing instead social conformity, Americans used psychoanalysis to reinforce traditional American moral and religious values. Robert Louis Stevenson, ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,’ 7. Zaretsky, 4. Micale, ‘The Modernist Mind: A Timeline,’ 2. Kittler cites experiments with automatic reading (in which Gertrude Stein was one of the participants), in which the subject reads a dull text in a low voice, while another person is reading an interesting story to him. If he does not go insane, he eventually learn to focus on the text being read to him, while continuing to read the other text completely unconsciously. ‘Rather than being rooted together in one voice from the inmost soul,’ explains Kittler, ‘the isolated routines of reading, listening and speaking become automatic and impersonal’ (226). In The Unconscious (1915) Freud acknowledges post-hypnotic suggestion as demonstrating the existence and agency of the unconscious in advance of psychoanalysis. By emphasizing the theatricality of hypnosis, the fin de siècle discourse of hypnosis and post-hypnotic suggestion undermined the belief in sanity as a pre-existing ‘entity’. Charcot invoked theatrical concepts, describing the grande attaque hysterique as a drama unfolding in four acts that imitates other diseases in a sort of ‘neuromimesis’ (Andriopoulos, Possessed 68). Bernheim (of the Nancy School) highlighted the issue of simulation even more, insisting that the grande attaque hysterique ‘was not a genuine, authentic manifestation of a neurological disease but an artificial performance choreographed by the unconscious suggestion of the physician and enacted by the suggestible patient’ (69). Indeed, he maintained that although in some cases the patient knows he is simulating, in other cases he is deprived of the freedom not to simulate (75). Janet Bergstrom, ‘Introduction,’ 1-23. Tolouse quoted in N.H. Attali, M. Ciardi and B. Geberowicz, ‘Psychiatrie et cinéma: des rapports anciens et tourmentes,’ 9-10. Le Bon quoted in Micale, ‘Discourses of Hysteria in fin de siècle France,’ 80. Tolouse quoted in N.H. Attali, M. Ciardi and B. Geberowicz, 10. N.H. Attali, M. Ciardi and B. Geberowicz, 11. Tom Gunning, ‘Phantasmagoria and the Manufacturing of Illusions and Wonder,’ 35-36. Gunning reads the ontological doubt exacerbated by cinema as pleasurable rather than as ontologically destabilizing. Early film theorists (Desnos, Soupault, Aragon) also discussed cinema as a substitute for dreams and drugs. Both Epstein’s revelationist aesthetic and Balázs’s anthropomorphic film theory were informed by animistic beliefs, which


35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. 42. 43. 44.

45. 46.


translated into the realm of the aesthetic the symptoms of various types of delusional and anxiety disorders (characterized by the inability to distinguish the living from the non-living). Benjamin’s work on photography and cinema betrayed a similar dependence on the appropriation of the language of madness and mental illness. For instance, in order to emancipate the object from modernity’s deteriorated auratic context, Benjamin promoted a ‘therapeutic’ derealization. The radical potential of photography and cinema, he argued, is exemplified by those of their aspects ‒ involuntary memory, absent-mindedness, arbitrariness, indeterminacy, distraction, derealization, shock, the uncanny, hypnotism ‒ that resist the standardization of life in the industrialized age by promoting non-cognitive, non-rational responses to reality. Andriopoulos, Possessed, 16. In his contribution to the volume Weimar Cinema, Gunning explores the link between Mabuse’s powers of suggestion and the devices of cinema through which these powers are conveyed. Stefan Andriopoulos, ‘Suggestion, Hypnosis, and Crime’, 28. Anon Kaes, ‘Metropolis (1927),’ 112-113. Andriopoulos, Possessed, 7. Micale, ‘The Modernist Mind,’ 13. Hale also identifies Freud’s emphasis on the unconscious as an active, purposive agent as one of his most original contributions (216). Micale, 18. Samuel A. Tannenbaum, ‘Turns against Freud,’ New York Times, March 19, 1922. Samuel, 55. In one scene, Orlac is listening to the phonograph. ‘Wonderful invention, the phonograph!’ he exclaims. ‘Keeps a man alive long after he is dead!’ Like other 1920s films, Mad Love explores the porous boundary separating life from the reproduction of life, tapping into anxieties provoked by new processes of technological reproduction (photography and film) that promised to extend human life indefinitely. The film broaches the subject of reproduction from several angles: 1) the creation of life from death (the madman Gogol dreams of rewriting Pygmalion’s story by bringing to life the wax statue of the actress Mrs. Orlac); 2) the blurring of the distinction between original and copy (the wax statue of Galatea, Mrs. Orlac’s last stage role, is played in the film by the real actress, who is instructed to stand still, while other characters are constantly confusing the real Mrs. Orlac with her wax statue); and 3) the extension of life (the film suggests that extending life, by reproducing it, is synonymous with creating life from scratch, i.e. from death, and that there is something equally unnatural about both). Todd Herzog, ‘Fritz Lang’s M (1931),’ 295. The literature of detection emerging in the nineteenth century overlapped with the invention of visual technologies such as the kaleidoscope, the stereoscope, and photography. It also coincided with significant innovations in





50. 51.

52. 53. 54.

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surveillance practices such as Jeremy Bentham’s 1843 plan of the Panopticon, the introduction of fingerprinting in 1860 by Sir William Herschel, the publication in 1876 of Cesare Lombroso’s Criminal Man, and Alphonse Bertillon’s 1884 photographic division and system of narrative description of physiognomic features (Dimendberg 26). Although Bedlam shows how an innocent, sane person can be made to appear insane because she poses a threat to the established order, the film does nothing of the sort for Bedlam’s inmates, whose insanity remains unquestioned. The focus of the story is on the struggle to improve the living conditions in the asylum rather than on questioning the alleged insanity of the inmates, who are represented in complete accord with familiar visual stereotypes. Unlike Dr. Caligari, who remains unaware of his escalating insanity, Stone is able to recall the history of his own descent into madness, which was apparently triggered by his witnessing the captain of another ship, on which the younger Stone worked as messenger boy, gradually lose his mind. Stone admits to doing things that he cannot recollect; indeed, fearful that he is on the verge of losing control, he begins to question whether Merriam’s accusations might be true. The typical psychoanalytic session consisted of sedating the soldier and prompting him to recall the painful, repressed incident that led to his illness. Psychoanalysts experimented with mixing analysis with other treatments ‒ e.g. ‘hypnoanalysis’ blended hypnosis with psychoanalysis ‒ and developed new treatments such as group psychotherapy (Samuel, 60). Marlisa Santos, The Dark Mirror: Psychiatry and Film Noir, xv. Here I will not rehearse the well-known debate around the question of whether film noir constitutes a genre, a movement, or a historical period. Significantly, noir has also been said to transcend both genre and historical context inasmuch as it taps into a universal, unconscious sense of crime and punishment i.e., it is defined mainly in terms of its Freudian overtones. Patrice Petro, ‘Legacies of Weimar Cinema,’ 246. Wheeler Winston Dixon, ‘The Endless Embrace of Hell: Hopelessness and Betrayal in Film Noir,’ 38. If I had to single out one precursor to noir’s emphasis on the unknowability and irrationality of human actions, and its refusal to subsume ‘madness’ ‒ irrational acts of violence ‒ under the discourse of Reason (reasons, causes, effects, motives), it would have to be Renoir’s The Human Beast (1938). The film opens with a quote from Zola’s novel: ‘He felt as though he were paying the price for generations of fathers and forefathers who drank themselves to death and poisoned his blood. He felt compelled to commit crimes beyond the control of his will, acts whose causes lay deep within him.’ The quote, supposed to ‘explain’ Lantier’s ‘condition’ in hereditary terms, was probably added by the producer, because it does not fit the



56. 57. 58.





rest of the film, which presents Lantier as a complex character completely aware of his condition rather than the victim of a psychiatric diagnosis. Anticipating the emergence of the femme fatale in noir, Renoir’s incongruously vulnerable femme fatale tries to use Lantier’s psychological disorder ‒ his irrational bouts of violence ‒ to get rid of her husband. By having Lantier refuse to go along with her plan, Renoir emphasizes the irreducibility of ‘madness’ to the discourse of reason, of clearly defined, although secret, motives (killing the woman’s husband). In an unexpected plot twist, instead of killing his beloved’s husband Lantier impulsively kills her, right after they have professed their love for each other. Thus, Lantier ‘remains faithful’ to his ‘madness’, demonstrating its autonomy from the discourse of reason: his madness is not given a narrative (rational) motivation or function. Packer notes that while in the 1940s, when Spellbound was made, Freud’s theories of repression reigned, today the condition from which the male protagonist in Spellbound suffers ‒ post-traumatic stress disorder ‒ is characterized by intrusive (rather than repressed) memories and flashbacks. Samuel, 77-78. Ibid. 106. Hale reads the American emphasis on re-adjustment and adaptation as a response to the problems of immigration in American society coupled with an increasing interest in efficiency and scientific management. D.N. Rodowick, on the other hand, views 1950s domestic melodrama as embodying ‘the failure of the ideological system produced in the postwar period to insure social normalization and the orderly transition to a peace-time economy’ (44). Hale, 363. For a discussion of the ways in which the ecological (social) approach to madness challenged the psychoanalytic approach during this period, see Michael Fleming and Roger Manvell, Images of Madness: The Portrayal of Insanity in the Feature Film (Hackensack, NJ: Farleigh Dickinson UP, 1983). Janet Walker identifies two contradictory impulses ‒ psychiatric adjustment and resistance ‒ in post-war films. She reads the emphasis on countertransference, in films about psychoanalysis, as exemplifying a discourse of resistance to the adjustment impulse and thus a weakening of psychoanalytic authority in the post-war period. However, she also notes that most post-war films displaced any serious investigation of the socio-economic dimension of psychological disorder onto the realm of the individual psyche. See Janet Walker, Couching Resistance: Women, Film, and Psychoanalytic Psychiatry (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993). Stephen Harper posits a shift from the Freudian focus on the problems of femininity in 1940s films to a postmodern problematization of masculine subjectivity in male biopics such as Spider, Keane, Julien Donkey Boy, A Beautiful Mind, Quills, The Aviator, and Pollock.


Warped Minds

62. On the incompatibility between legal and medical discourse of insanity, the increasingly mediatized (as opposed to mediated) discourse of madness, and the crisis of trust in expert knowledge, see chapter 4 in Simon Cross, Mediating Madness: Mental Distress and Cultural Representation (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). 63. William Indick, Psycho Thrillers: Cinematic Explorations of the Mysteries of the Mind, 20-21. 64. For a discussion of the post-war context of deinstitutionalization, see Cynthia Marie Erb, ‘“Have You Ever Seen the Inside of One of Those Places?”: Psycho, Foucault, and the Postwar Context of Madness,’ Cinema Journal Vol. 45, Issue 4 (2006): 45-63. 65. Thomas Szasz, The Myth of Mental Illness, 8. 66. At the same time, however, several scenes set in the mental hospital contrast the ‘modern’ image of the self-aware mental patient (Catherine) with anachronistic images of the ‘really insane’, hysterical female patients and violent male patients thrown together in overcrowded ‘snake pits.’ 67. Although the film ends with Catherine’s triumphant recovery of the traumatic memory, the last scene (perhaps unintentionally) undermines our belief in the success of her treatment. Earlier in the film we have heard Catherine recover another traumatic memory ‒ her rape ‒ from which, we are told, she tried to distance herself by referring to herself in the third person, a common response among rape victims, who try to dissociate themselves from the traumatic event by imagining that it happened to someone else. In the film’s last scene, however, when the doctor calls Catherine’s name, she responds ‘She is here, doctor. Catherine is here,’ once again referring to herself in the third person. Her final words thus signify both the victim’s response to trauma and her recovery from trauma. 68. While Stephen Harper acknowledges the importance of the politically subversive potential of madness and its power to interrogate ‘the pathology of normalcy’, he also correctly points out the danger of romanticizing madness, as in the case of Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (1983), which valorizes schizophrenia while downplaying the seriousness of psychological suffering. Conversely, on re-valorizing (‘trans-coding’) of the term ‘mad’ by people suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, see Simon Cross, 30-33. 69. Each of the three patients who witnessed the murder Johnny Barrett is investigating ‒ a former soldier, a black activist and a scientist ‒ is obsessed with a prime form of paranoia in the post-war years: for the soldier, communism; for the activist, racial bigotry; for the scientist, nuclear destruction. See David Steritt, ‘Fuller, Foucault, and Forgetting,’ 195. 70. Packer links schizophrenic delusions, and film noir’s use of voice-overs and visual and auditory flashbacks to mirror the voice of the unconscious, to public radio broadcasts (30-32).




‘The delirious effects of montage unmoor the narrative both spatially and temporally. The delirium of The Shining partakes of the delirious powers of cinema. The special effects, processes, tricks, shortcuts, the skillful games with décor and time, share common ground with the mute processes of psychosis and with the technological protocols of a ‘global’ schizophrenia. Cinema (like dream, like delirium) has the power to explore the dialectic of individuals and characters invested with a combination of social desire and elementary instincts.’ 72. Another example of the recuperative approach to psychopathology that treats madness as a form of resistance is Sterrit’s reading of Johnny’s ‘fall from language and the symbolic order’ in Shock Corridor. Steritt views Johnny’s eventual slippage into silence, muteness and forgetting as evidence of his reclaiming of his sovereignty, ‘elliptically expressed as incommunicable inner experience’, and of Johnny’s ‘independence from culturally produced meanings’ (Steritt, 207). 73. For another example of a psychoanalytic approach to spectatorship, see Lynne Kirby on the ‘hysterical (early) spectator’ and on continuity editing as ‘the control of trauma’ in ‘Male Hysteria and Early Cinema,’ Camera Obscura 17 (May 1988): 113-131. 74. The classic period of the giallo ran from 1970 to 1975. 75. In defence of the giallo’s lack of subtlety and visual excessiveness, Koven proposes that the psychodynamics of vernacular cinema (to which the giallo belongs) shares a lot with the psychodynamics of cultures of primary orality as defined by Ong in Orality and Literacy (1982). 76. Koven, 21. 77. Maitland McDonagh, Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds, 110. 78. The Stendhal Syndrome (1996) makes the giallo’s aestheticization of madness explicit by telling a story about a rare mental disorder that takes the form of an intense aesthetic experience. 79. Zaretsky, 11.


Multiple Personality and the Hollywood ‘Multiple’ Film

1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Jenny Bourne Taylor, ‘Psychology at the fin de siècle,’ 25. Ibid. 26. Ibid. 27. Ibid. 28. See Ian Hacking, Rewriting the Soul: Multiple Personality and the Sciences of Memory (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995). Cavell reads the advent of photography and cinema as a manifestation of something that had already happened to the human mind ‒ the descent into skepticism reflected in the philosophy of Descartes, Hume, Kant, Emerson, Nietzsche, Heidegger and Wittgenstein: ‘The name scepticism





9. 10.

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speaks, as I use it, of some new, or new realization of, human distance from the world, or some withdrawal of the world, which philosophy interprets as a limitation in our capacity for knowing the world; it is what Romantics perceive as our deadness to the world, which they understand philosophy to help sustain’ (116). Photography and cinema simply magnified the skepticism that was already fully at play in Shakespearean tragedy and romance, which revealed our fate to relate to the world ‘by viewing it, taking views of it, as from behind the self’ (116-117). Cavell argues that cinema manifests the descent into skepticism that had already begun with Descartes, only to posit cinema as the only proof of the cogito and thus as the last ‘cure’ for skepticism. The idea that we betray ourselves through involuntary body movements, gestures, and grimaces has, by now, infiltrated popular culture. In the TV series Lie to Me (2009) the ‘human polygraph’ Dr. Cal Lightman (Tim Roth) is endowed with the uncanny ability to expose criminals by reading their ‘micro-expressions’ (or, as Cavell calls them, ‘somatograms’), i.e., their shifting body language. Kittler discusses Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari as an example of cinema’s modernization of psychiatry, manifest in the blurring of the distinction between psychiatrists and madmen. The similarity between psychiatrists and madmen, Kittler argues, originates in the new discourse network of 1900 based on the ‘alternation between foreground and background, and the corresponding oscillation between sense and nonsense on a basis of medial otherness, a logic of pure differentiality ‒ which on a theoretical level was to emerge in the shape of Saussure’s structural linguistics’ (Winthrop-Young and Wutz, translators’ ‘Introduction’ xxvi). For instance, in his analysis of the case of the very first multiple, Louis Vivet (1885), Hacking argues that by applying various metals and magnets to different parts of Vivet’s body, his doctors encouraged him to make his separate mental states correspond to distinct somatic symptoms and memories (Rewriting the Soul 178). Because Ribot had already established memory as the foundation of personality, it was easy to argue that what the doctors saw in Vivet’s case were not just eight different states of one personality but eight different personalities or personality fragments, each with its own memories. Hacking, Rewriting the Soul, 5. Ibid. 31. It is no accident, Hacking notes, that ‘TV remote controls became widely available in America just about the time that today’s florid multiples became abundant’ (32). The first multiples might not have experienced ‘alternating’, ‘switching’, ‘channeling’ personalities but during the ‘second epidemic’ (in the 1970s) multiples began describing their experiences in precisely such terms borrowed from the discourse of television spectatorship, a process Hacking calls ‘semiotic contagion’ (borrowing the language of neighboring public discourses, and thus placing the object of discourse under new, previously unavailable, descriptions that inevitably modify it).




13. 14.




In Movies and Mental Illness: Using Films to Understand Psychopathology, Danny Wedding, Mary Ann Boyd and Ryan M. Niemic revive Munsterberg’s argument that film techniques correspond to mental functions: ‘Film is particularly well suited to depicting psychological states of mind and altered mental states. … Processes such as thinking, recalling, imagining, and feeling are not visible but the language of montage and camera techniques such as slow fades can suggest these visible processes’ (4-5). See Rebecca Lee, ‘Virtual Reality Experience Mimics Schizophrenia to Teach Health Professionals about Their Patients,’ www.abcnews.go.com/ WN/story?id=3348856. Accessed December 20, 2013. Cognitive neuroscientists, who study the workings of the brain ‒ both the functioning of individual brain cells and the global activity in the brain ‒ have identified an important region of the brain called ‘the posterior parietal cortex’ containing mirror neurons, which become active when we imagine performing the actions of another. Mirror neurons have been important both in the study of brain abnormalities as well as in studies of film spectatorship, identification and affect. See Bill Christensen ‘New Drug Deletes Bad Memories,’ www.livescience.com/​ health/070702_bad_memories.html. Accessed December 20, 2013. In another example of the looping effect between scientific research and cinema, Jack Gallant’s research team at UC Berkeley has conducted an experiment whose ultimate purpose is to reconstruct films a viewer has not actually seen, with a view to creating films that would produce a desired viewer response. Indeed, as Christof Koch suggests, despite the limitations of such experiments (the spatiotemporal limits of fMRI) ‘it is not inconceivable that the kind of visual daydreaming we all engage in … will one day yield to these tools. Who’s to say that dreams might not also be accessible to Gallant’s reconstruction techniques?’ Consider, for example, the role of a particular film device (the flashback) in shaping our experience of memory. ‘Flashback’ is a term that originated in the movies, was transposed into literary theory, and then into psychology. There is a common, unsupported, assumption that memories recalled in a flashback are somehow more trustworthy than other types of memory, because they seem so sudden, violent, and spontaneous, which supposedly increases their claim to authenticity. Very likely this belief developed as a result of the way in which flashbacks are often used in cinema, namely to reveal a secret about a character’s past. A particular film device (flashback) used for dramatic purposes is, therefore, capable of shaping our experience of memory, leading us to privilege ‒ in real life ‒ memories recalled in a flashback over other kinds of memories. In neurocinematics brain responses to film are used to study the functioning of the brain, and neuroscience is deployed to explain our affective and intellectual responses to different types of film. Neuroscientist Uri Hasson coined the term ‘neurocinematics’ but, as Michele Guerra has shown,


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the interest in brain responses to film dates back to the 1910s, specifically the work of French physician Édouard Toulose. Neuroscientific research aims at a quantitative assessment of the impact of different film styles on viewers’ brains through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and inter-subject correlation (ISC) analysis. In fMRI a magnetic resonance imaging scanner provides a time series of 3-D images of brain activity, and ISC analysis measures similarities in brain activity across viewers. Hasson’s research showed that highly structured (Hollywood) films produce a higher degree of similarity in brain activity across viewers while more loosely edited films ‒ such as art films ‒ produced a greater variability in brain activity across viewers, that is, a lower ISC. Advocates of neurocinematics believe the turn to neuroscience will help film theory go beyond ideological, linguistic and psychoanalytic models, quoting Deleuze’s ‘premonitory’ statement, in Negotiations (1972-1990), that the future of cinema studies is not in linguistics or psychoanalysis but in the biology of the brain, ‘a microbiology,’ and calling on film scholars to explore ‘the general power of images to create new brain circuits’ (Pisters, The Neuro-Image 116). In demonstrating the looping effect between the brain and the screen, however, neurocinematics has shown itself to be just an extension of apparatus theory, though one rooted in neuroscience rather than in SLAB (Saussure, Lacan, Althusser, Barthes) theory. The ‘looping effect’ consists in the following: 1) viewers are presented with a series of images (structured or unstructured, edited according to the continuity system, breaking the continuity system, or not following any system at all i.e. raw images which form the ‘base line’ of viewer response, against which more complicated responses can be measured); 2) their response to the different types of images is recorded through fMRI; 3) based on the reading of their variable brain responses and the variable degree of inter-subjective correlation across viewers, conclusions are drawn about the type of effect different film styles and camera movements have on viewers and the different degree of emotional and cognitive engagement they produce in them; 4) the film industry ‘supplies’ the types of film guaranteed to produce the desired, i.e. most economically profitable, effect on audiences and discourages or marginalizes the types of films with the potential of creating ‘new brain circuits’. 17. Karl Miller, Doubles: Studies in Literary History (New York: Oxford UP, 1987). 18. Paul Coates, The Double and the Other: Identity as Ideology in Post-Romantic Fiction (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988). 19. Paul Antze and Michael Lambek (eds), Past Tense: Cultural Essays in Trauma and Memory (London and New York: Routledge, 1996). 20. Ian Hacking, Rewriting the Soul: Multiple Personality and the Sciences of Memory. 21. According to Slavoj Žižek, our increasing interest in multiple selves (e.g. in MUD, multiplayer real-time virtual worlds) is due to the fact that such worlds endow the subject with agency to compensate for his decreasing



agency as the result of his increasing mediatization by technology and the computerization of everyday life: the subject is ‘mediatized, stripped of his or her power, under the false disguise of its increase. … When our body is mediatized (caught in the network of electronic media), it is simultaneously exposed to the threat of a radical “proletarianization”: the subject is potentially reduced to the pure $, since even my own personal experience can be stolen, manipulated, regulated by the mechanical Other’ (112). 22. See Ian Fletcher and Malcolm Bradbury, ‘Preface,’ in Decadence and the 1890s, ed. Ian Fletcher (London: Edward Arnold, 1979), 7-13. 23. Thus, while the appearance of the Double in German Romantic literature was part of the ‘German national culture’ project of the Sturm und Drang movement, more recently, on-going European integration has created similar conditions for the exchange of images of the self, as Western Europeans begin to view Eastern Europeans as akin to themselves, and Eastern Europeans see themselves as Europe’s lost children finally returning to their ‘homeland’, projecting themselves into a space hitherto defined as other (‘Europe’) and (re)claiming it as their own. 24. Insofar as it marks the complete objectification of the subjective and the unreliability of memory in defining the self as continuous through time, multiplicity has acquired the sense of theatricality, perhaps a contemporary ‒ de-pathologized ‒ version of hysteria (in its early history ‘multiple personality’ was, in fact, referred to as ‘hysteria’). In his 1957 book Personality American psychologist Gardner Murphy treats multiple personality as a metaphor for the intrinsically histrionic nature of all social behavior or as a different kind of lifestyle, often richer and more flexible than that of the singular self: ‘[P]erhaps the normal personality is more dissociable than we suspect, and the pathologically dissociated is a bit played up, dramatized by patient and doctor alike’ (quoted in Miller 337). In the late twentieth century American psychologist Ernest Hilgard developed the neo-dissociation model of the mind, which relies on multiple, parallel subsystems of information processing. He supported his claim that most people have an inherently divided mind by demonstrating the existence of a ‘hidden observer’ during hypnosis, a hidden part of the self who is aware of things the hypnotized part is not aware of (Howell 39). 25. Pat Mellencamp discusses The Matrix in terms of another meaning of multiplicity, multiplicity as the synthesis of various media (theater, film, graphic arts, television, computer games, live action and CGI). She also reads the film as a story of empowerment; not just Neo’s, but also ours. Films like The Matrix ‒ films which offer us multiple realities, multiple deaths and lives ‒ are empowering, not escapist: ‘This mix of Eastern thought in Western genres and characters is at the core of so much contemporary culture, including that of self-help. … The overriding message of the film is that if our belief in ourselves remains steadfast, there is nothing we cannot accomplish or become. Our thoughts, which we will learn to focus and dis-


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cipline, create and determine out world ‒ a distinctly Eastern philosophical premise’ (Mellencamp 93). 26. The shrinking of the private sphere brought about by globalization continues to nurse this desire for privacy, which often manifests itself in negative terms as paranoia (the fear of overexposure) ‒ the last vestige of romanticism in our age (Miller 380). 27. The most intriguing part of Hacking’s critique of the simplistic etiology of multiple personality and of memory recovery therapy is his detour into a philosophical discussion of the constitutive indeterminacy of the past, an inescapable phenomenon of which memory recovery therapy takes advantage. ‘The events as described, which the multiple in therapy comes to feel as the cause of her illness,’ he writes, ‘did not produce her present state. Instead, re-descriptions of the past are caused by the present. Nevertheless, the patient feels that events as newly described do produce her present state’ (Hacking, The Social Construction of What 94). This line of thought captures the essence of the greatest challenge to the multiple movement in America, the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, established in 1992, which accuses clinicians of generating memories of child abuse that never happened. ‘Why have we been so literalist, so mechanical and imagined that an illness produced by trauma is produced at the time of the trauma, in early childhood?’ Hacking asks. ‘Why can’t we at least discuss the idea that the experience of the original event, apparently kept in memory, is not what causes distress and dysfunction; why can’t we ask whether the problem comes from the possibly repressed memory itself, much later in life, and the way in which the mind has worked on and recomposed that memory’ (137). 28. He attributes the rise of an epidemic to the ‘looping effect’ inherent in every discourse: an epidemic is precipitated by a significant transformation in an object of discourse in response to the evolution of the discourse itself. Because the object of discourse is placed under new descriptions that were not originally available, the object as such is, however slightly, modified. For instance, in the case of multiple personality, the ‘looping effect’ refers to the way in which the discourse of the multiple contributed to the ‘production’ (the ‘making up’) of multiples, who, in turn, ‘learned’ to behave in ways conforming to the discourse that had produced them. The increasing vagueness and instability of diagnostic criteria in the second half of the nineteenth century eventually created the conditions under which it became possible for an increasing number of people to be diagnosed as multiples. 29. At the same time, the shift from ‘personality’ to ‘dissociation’ has brought multiple personality closer to schizophrenia: in 1994 the criteria required the ‘presence’, rather than the ‘existence’ of more than one personality. Insofar as ‘presence’ is the word used to refer to delusions typical of schizophrenia, alters are made to appear analogous to delusions (Hacking, Rewriting the Soul 19-20).



30. The ‘theatricalization’ of the multiple is also reflected in what Hacking sees as the constitutive indeterminacy of the past: ‘Multiple personality disorder illustrates, in a heightened way, a completely general phenomenon about memory, description, the past and the soul’ (Rewriting the Soul 95). This general phenomenon is the issue of intentionality: what constitutes an action determines how actions are recalled; that is to say, insofar as multiple personality is about recalling actions, rather than simply states of mind, memory depends on the very definition of an action. Following the philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe, Hacking argues that intentional actions (actions under a description) are inherently indeterminate ‒ it is the actions as such that are indeterminate, rather than our memories of them (234): ‘When new intentions become open to me, because new descriptions, new concepts, become available to me, I live in a new world of opportunities’ (236). Multiple personalities become solidified when they are named or when a new vocabulary for describing them is forged: ‘Old actions under new descriptions may be re-experienced in memory. And if these are genuinely new descriptions, descriptions not available or perhaps nonexistent at the time of the episodes remembered, then something is experienced now, in memory that in a certain sense did not exist before. The action took place, but not the action under the new description. … When we remember what we did, or what other people did, we may also rethink, re-describe, and re-feel the past. These re-descriptions may be perfectly true of the past; that is, they are truths that we now assert about the past. And yet, paradoxically, they may not have been true in the past, that is, not truths about intentional actions that made sense when the actions were performed. That is why I say that the past is revised retroactively’ (249). 31. In 1963 Sartre wrote a letter that was to serve as the forward to R.D. Laing and David Cooper’s book Reason and Violence: A Decade of Sartre’s Philosophy (1964). In the letter Sartre states: ‘I believe that one cannot understand psychological disturbances from the outside, on the basis of a positivistic determinism, or reconstruct them with a combination of concepts that remain outside the illness as a lived experience. … I regard mental illness as the way out that the free organism, in its total unity, invents in order to be able to live through an intolerable situation’ (Sartre quoted in Fischer 142). 32. In ‘Automatisme Ambulatoire: Fugue, Hysteria and Gender at the Turn of the Century,’ Ian Hacking also argues that, ‘For the primarily European ICD-10, the main problem for people with dissociative identity disorders is amnesia. For the American DSM-IV, the main problem is multiple personality. DSM-IV reminds us that fugue was not only a disorder of forgetting but also, to a lesser extent, a disorder of personality’ (128). 33. The prototype of double consciousness is a young woman who alternates between her usual inhibited self and a merrier, uninhibited one, as in the






38. 39. 40.

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case of Mary Raynolds, the most famous English-speaking multiple personality of the nineteenth century. Theories of multiple personality grew out of ‘a combination of philosophy, evolutionary biology and mesmerism. There are two central aspects to these theories: one static, one dynamic. The static concept is that of the ‘unconscious’ [which has the power to affect consciousness indirectly through the formation of neurotic symptoms] … The dynamic concept can be characterized as “dissociation” [multiple personalities are mutually amnesiac]’ (Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann quoted in Kenny 14). Hacking draws attention to the difference between the American discourse of the multiple, which used the passive term consciousness to describe the process of doubling, and the French discourse, which relied on the more active notion of personality. For example, Eugene Azam, the first to tell the story of the classic French double Felida X, while looking for names for Felida’s illness, settled on dédoublement de la personnalité, rather than double conscience (the literal French translation of the English double consciousness): ‘It is life, personality, all that is active in the human soul’ that is doubled in the case of Felida X (Rewriting the Soul 160). The multiple personality movement draws on earlier memories of fundamentalist revival meetings and has now become part of the American popular discourse of liberation (e.g. gay liberation) (Hacking, Rewriting the Soul 39). Insofar as American literature of the fantastic envisioned multiple alternate worlds, Cavell claims, it represented an attempt to deal with the onslaught of skepticism that began with Descartes and was exacerbated by Hume and Kant. The Case of Sigmund Freud. Part 1: Freud’s Influence on 20th Century Writers and Thinkers. Produced by Mark Burman. London: BBC Radio 4, 2000. Welcome Library Collection. America on the Couch: Examining Freud’s Theories on American Culture. Presented by Christopher Cook. London: BBC Radio 3, 1999. Welcome Library Collection. In Psychiatry and the Cinema (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), Krin Gabbard and Glen O. Gabbard divide the history of psychiatry in American cinema into three periods. The first period, represented by films like Dr. Dippy’s Sanitarium (1906), The Escaped Lunatic (1904) and When the Clouds Roll By (1913), set the pattern for the subsequent de-medicalization of psychiatry by failing to distinguish psychiatrists and psychoanalysts from hypnotists, clairvoyants, and charlatans. The Golden Age (late 1950s and early 1960s) introduced the humanized, altruistic psychiatrist. The ending of the Golden age coincided with a decline in governmental support of psychiatric research and education. Although positive images of psychiatrists did not disappear completely (e.g. Sybil and I Never Promised You a Rose Garden), the 1960s brought with them a predominantly negative


41. 42.

43. 44.





image of psychiatrists as agents of a repressive, conformist society (Equus, Harold and Maude). The return of the ‘good psychiatrist’ in the 1980s (Ordinary People) reflected the increasingly conservative climate in 1980s America. America on the Couch, Welcome Library Collection. For another parallel history of cinema and psychoanalysis, see N.H. Attali, M. Ciardi and B. Geberowicz. ‘Psychiatrie et cinéma: des rapports anciens et tourmentes,’ in Cinéma et Folie, ed. Norbert H. Attali and Michel Ciardi (Rueil Malmaison: Laboratoires Ciba- Geigy, 1988), 9-16. America on the Couch, Welcome Library Collection. After Sybil, multiple personality disorder (MPD) took center stage, pushing hypnosis aside. Self-diagnoses of MPD soared, especially among patients formerly diagnosed with borderline personality disorder or bipolar disorder. Some psychiatrists used hypnosis or truth serum (sodium amytal) to expose ‘alters.’ In his 1957 book Personality, the American psychologist Gardner Murphy argued that Vicky owned more of the original Sybil than Sybil herself, for Vicky had access to the collective memory of all alters. Even Dr. Wilbur, Sybil’s therapist, originally meant to locate the reintegration process in Vicky, not in Sybil, but eventually changed her mind. See Miller, Doubles: Studies in Literary History, 341-343. For example, Karl Miller’s reading of Sybil’s case treats multiple personality as an instance of the intrinsic fictionality of identity: ‘Every life is made up, put on, imagined ‒ including, hypocrite lecteur, yours. Sibyl’s life was made up by Sybil, by her doctor, when she became a case, and again, when she became a book, by her author. Sixteen selves were imagined. But it is not even entirely clear that there were as many as two’ (Miller 348). Deborah’s treatment is supposed to help her distinguish between reality and Dreamland as well as between real and invented memories (e.g. the false memory of killing her own sister ‒ something she wished for but never actually did). While the first few times the transition between reality and Dreamland is made very obvious precisely by making it metaphorical (opening a door to another world), gradually the jump cuts and illogical cuts between scenes begin to happen not only between real and psychotic scenes, but also between real scenes; that is to say, sometimes we see Deborah in the real world, there is a jump cut and we suddenly see her in one of her dream scenarios, but there are also times when we see her in the real world and with a quick cut we are transported to another scene, also taking place in the real world but spatially and temporally removed from the preceding scene. Thus, if temporal and spatial dissociation serve, originally, as markers or visual cues that help us keep the two worlds Deborah straddles separate, when these same cues are used within the world of the real only, they tend to de-realize it so that even scenes taking place in the hospital become open to being read as psychotic episodes. Here, as well as in The Thirteenth Floor,


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the multiplication of realities and the gradual ‘phasing out’ of reliable cues used to distinguish between them renders all realities equally unreal. 48. ‘What do the terms empiricism and rationalism mean? Reduced to their most pregnant difference, empiricism means the habit of explaining wholes by parts, and rationalism means the habit of explaining parts by wholes’ (James, A Pluralistic Universe 8). 49. Absolute monism claims that it is impossible to connect two phenomena because ‘neither of them can own any part of a between, because, so taken, each is supposed shut up to itself: the fact of a between thus commits us to a higher knower’ (James, A Pluralistic Universe 64). The only way to avoid this regression ad infinitum, James proposes, is to acknowledge that the relation between the two terms must be ‘more intimate. The hooking must be a penetration, a possession’ (70). 50. In his Introduction to Bergson’s Dreams, Edward Slosson argues that the pragmatic nature of Bergson’s philosophy had a particular appeal for the American people as evidenced by the influence of Bergson on the philosophy of William James and John Dewey (Slosson 10). Rejecting the mechanistic interpretation of the world as a clock wound up once and then just marking time, Americans welcomed Bergson’s notion of an indestructible élan vital struggling with intractable inert matter. 51. James’s notion of a ‘multiverse’ is indebted to Darwin. One of the most fascinating explanations for breaks in the association of ideas is that of Erasmus Darwin who, writing in 1794, attributed such breaks in the trains of ideas to shifts in attention: ‘Many of his examples showed his awareness that attention processes in everyday life could work in two directions ‒ through enhancement and interference. If one wants to enhance the possibility of hearing a faint and distant noise, Darwin recommended that one should “suppress other trains of ideas”’ (Carlson 16). Darwin emphasizes the separation of parallel activities, such as concentrating on something while a fly lands on your hand and you brush it away without disrupting the train of ideas (16). The potential for attention in one activity and a simultaneous inattention in another activity, that id, the potential for involuntary or automatic behavior, argues Darwin, is similar to dreaming at night and not being able to remember one’s dream the following day. Darwin allows that the separation from consciousness is not absolute for later on some similar idea might bring back the dream train of ideas and insert it into our waking life. Dreams resemble reveries since both experiences involve a loss of time or, put differently, they are timeless experiences and as such remain unintegrated into consciousness (16). The significance of Darwin’s argument lies in the link he establishes between dissociation, on the one hand, and experiences unaccompanied by an adequate sense of time, on the other hand, the latter construed in terms of inattention (in reverie or dream). Not being able to remember one’s dream, he seems to suggest, is not that different (or different only in



terms of degree) from not paying attention to something in your waking life and attending to something else instead. This kind of reasoning refigures multiple personality as simply an extreme instance of otherwise absolutely normal phenomena of inattention. From this point of view, the multiplication of personalities or alters reflects a change in the usual balance of attention and inattention, an enhanced level of automatic or involuntary behavior. Darwin presupposes the constant presence of ‘parallel activity’, of other parts of the self, or other attention processes, which are simply bracketed out when a single dominating ‘personality’ takes over. 52. J.M.E. McTaggart expounds on the unreality of time: ‘The attribution of the characteristics past, present, and future to the terms of any series leads to a contradiction, unless it is specified that they have them successively. This means … that they have them in relation to terms specified as past, present, and future. These again, to avoid a like contradiction, must in turn be specified as past, present, and future. And, since this continues infinitely, the first set of terms never escapes from contradiction at all’ (96). 53. Todorov argues that these remarks about narrative do not refer only to literary texts but to all symbolic systems, and in fact most of all to cinema, because what he examines here is not ‘text’ but ‘narrative’ (38). 54. Cf. Noël Carroll on the nature of horror: ‘All narratives might be thought to involve the desire to know. … However, the horror fiction is a special variation on this general narrative motivation, because it has at the center of it something which is given as in principle unknowable ‒ something which, ex hypothesi, cannot, given the structure of our conceptual scheme, exist and that cannot have the properties it has’ (35). Carroll maintains that his approach is better than psychoanalytic ones ‒ such as Robin Wood’s, for example, who argues that ‘the true subject of the horror genre is the struggle for recognition of all that our civilization represses or oppresses, its reemergence dramatized, as in our nightmares, as an object of horror, a matter for terror’ (Wood 28) ‒ because it accounts for horrific beings whose imagery is not rooted in repression but is simply the result of ‘formal processes of “categorical-jamming”’ (Carroll 41). 55. Todorov adds yet another type of narrative, Henry James’s tales in which the transformation is from ‘primary ignorance to a lesser ignorance’ (33). In the case of James, the process of acquiring knowledge (the mark of the epistemic narrative) is essential but also complemented by yet another process ‒ subjectivation, ‘a personal reaction or response to an event.’ Proust takes this to an extreme ‒ hence his exhaustive descriptions of the subjective experience of trivial events. 56. According to Vidler, affective states that become dominant at a particular point in history reflect the culture of the time: melancholy was the privileged affective state in the Romantic period, multiple personality or hysteria (originally multiple personality was not distinguished from hysteria) in the latter half of the nineteenth century, schizophrenia and depression in


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the twentieth century. C.R. Badcock, for instance, proposes that the reason hysteria is rare today has to do with the fact that unlike fin de siècle culture, which tried to repress mental conflict, ‘modern cultural trends … encourage acting out and expression of the conflict as being more “healthy” than repression,’ with the result that now, ‘neuroses are perhaps increasingly acted-out and externalized as interpersonal conflicts rather than intrapsychic ones’ (128-129). 57. Alissa Quart coined the term in her review of Happy Endings (Don Roos, 2005) in Film Comment. 58. Given that the multiple different realities are ‘unaware’ of one another, it is difficult to understand how one of these realities can suddenly come to occupy a privileged position, that is, ‘become conscious’ of the others. We run into this problem in films like The Matrix, The Thirteenth Floor, Vanilla Sky, The Sixth Sense, Fight Club, The Spanish Prisoner, in which the protagonist, who has been living under some form of illusion, suddenly finds enlightenment about his own situation and pulls himself out of it. 59. Bourne suffers from selective dissociative amnesia: even though he does not know who he is, he retains his kinesthetic memory. 60. The film opens with a psychologist interviewing David. At the end of the film the psychologist is revealed as part of David’s lucid dream, which means that all sessions with the psychologist have been dreamed. And since the psychologist plays a major part in David’s recovery of the memory of his own death, his recovery of his memory must be a dream, too. The film asks us to read the therapy sessions scenes as real ‒ for instance through the use of multiple flashbacks, which presuppose that the point in time from which David flashes back is real ‒ but, at the same time, it insists that we accept their unreality, because David’s final enlightenment or self-awakening depends on it. 61. From a Bergsonian point of view, a multiple’s experiences can be seen as merely an intensified representation of the normal work of memory. The multiple’s sense of lost time ‒ suddenly finding oneself in a new place, with no idea of how much time has passed, because everything that has happened in that time gap was experienced by one of the alters ‒ simply demonstrates the central role that, as Bergson has argued, the impersonal plays in the construction of memory and identity. According to Bergson, normal perception and voluntary memory (which for him does not even qualify as ‘true’ memory) are entirely determined by the intellect, an organ of pragmatism: for example, perception works by cutting our parts of the real ‒ the parts that serve our immediate, practical needs ‒ and relegating everything else to the background. The life of the mind, however, far exceeds what we know through the intellect: thus Bergson privileges the unseen, the inexperienced, the forgotten, the impersonal, that which remains on the margins of perception, that which can be grasped only through intuition,







not through the intellect, in a word, that which does not belong to me, but to a vast, indeterminate memory that we can tap into occasionally. On the one hand, the ongoing process of globalization has clearly contributed to this reconceptualization of self and community: the notion of the Internet as a global memory bank has already become a cliché. On the other hand, and to go back to a previous point I made about the connection between the science fiction film genre and the Hollywood chronotope of multiplicity, we might note here the similarity between the model of globalization (and its reverse side, the eclipse of the local, the individual) and idea of the alien in science fiction cinema ‒ after all, one of the most consistent ways in which aliens have been represented in American science fiction films is as a single, common, homogeneous mind or memory, within which any differences between individual aliens are erased (think of the ‘Tuners’ in Dark City, or the aliens in invasion narratives of the 1950s). The film abounds in time paradoxes. First, if the current branch of time, the one from which they send a warning note back to the past, ceases to exist after the note creates a ripple in the flow of time, and thus a new branch, then doesn’t that mean that they never sent a note to the past, since the previous branch in which they supposedly did it has now ceased to exist? The first time Doug goes to the woman’s house, after her death, he finds words on the fridge ‒ ‘You can save her’ ‒ which should not have been there since he would have written these words only later in the film, after he has been sent back to the past. In another scene, Doug is watching the woman on the screen while another team is looking through her house. One of the other agents jokingly says that Doug’s prints are all over the place: but this cannot be, since at this point in the narrative he has not been sent into the past yet and thus would not have yet left any prints. The prints suggest that he has already been there, which in turn renders his later time travel superfluous: the present and the past become echoes of each other, neither of them having an ontological priority over the other. This comes through in his phone conversation with the mothman, which reveals that the latter knows things only the man himself can know (‘What do you look like? Depends on who is looking. You have already met me’), or in the regular shifts in the resolution of the image whenever the camera is recording him. Just as in the Bourne films the traumatic event in Bourne’s life does not cause his amnesia ‒ he makes the moral choice before the amnesia sets in, by choosing not to assassinate the African leader ‒ in The Astronaut’s Wife Jillian, who is supposed to be the trustworthy character in the film, is positioned as an unreliable narrator (crazy or alien) much earlier in the film: 1. Although humans cannot hear the signal sent out by the special fighter planes the aliens are building, she can. 2. She is given a traumatic past that further casts doubt on her reliability as a (human) narrator: we are told that after her parents’ death three years before, Jillian began imagining that peo-






5. 1.

Warped Minds

ple around her, including herself, were dead. 3. The main flashback in the film, which reveals what actually happened during the crucial two minutes, is edited so that when it begins, it appears to be her husband’s flashback, but when it ends, it appears to be Jillian’s flashback, thus problematizing the exact time of her ‘transformation’. The ‘unconscious’ serves ‘as a metaphor for what is merely ill-defined’ and the psychology of the unconscious should be seen as science fiction rather than science (whatever doctors and psychiatrists could not explain, and whatever patients could not describe was lumped into ‘the unconscious’). Christopher Sharrett offers a more negative reading of postmodern narratives than Mellencamp. He views self-reflexivity as an attempt to ‘resurrect through allusion a sense of the mythic, archetypal and potentious dimension of traditional narrative’ (Sharett 320). Films like The Matrix and Fight Club are disingenuously borrowing the fashionable postmodern discourse of self-reflexivity, multiplicity and groundlessness or relativism: ‘Allusionism continues to be a central strategy by which the commercial entertainment industry conceals its exhaustion and attempts to protect its legitimacy. Suggesting that we are all in on the joke, that the cinema apparatus needs to be exposed, that genre conventions need to be ripped apart is central to rebuilding enlightened false consciousness’ (328). The notion of memory as an object of retrieval is central to psychoanalytic thought, for which ‘it is access to memory rather than initial input or storage that is problematized’ (Antze and Lambek, ‘Introduction’ xii). As Hacking has argued, in the majority of cases of multiple personality the initial experience might not even be as harmful as is usually supposed; it is only its recollection that produces memory dysfunction. See the chapter on the constitutive indeterminacy of the past in Hacking’s Rewriting the Soul.

Paranoia and the Geopolitical Conspiracy Thriller In fact, as early as 1907, Emil Kraepelin analyzed mental illness as a social metaphor: ‘L’étude de la folie ne nous dévoile pas seulement une quantité de lois générales; elle nous ouvre encore des aperçus profonds sur l’histoire du développement de l’esprit humain, que nous envisagions l’individu en soi ou la race tout entière; elle ne donne enfin la clef grâce à laquelle nous serons en état de comprendre les nombreuses manifestations intellectuelles, morales, religieuses et artistiques de notre vie sociale’ (6). ‘The study of madness not only reveals a certain number of general laws; it also offers insight into the history of the human mind, whether we consider the history of the individual self or that of the entire species; finally, it helps us understand the numerous intellectual, moral, religious and artistic aspects of our social existence.’


2. 3. 4.

5. 6.


8. 9. 10.



Ray Pratt 36. R. Barton Palmer 85. For a discussion of the Hollywood cinema of ontological paranoia, as distinguished from the European cinema of the uncanny, see Garrett Stewart, Framed Time: Toward a Postfilmic Cinema (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007). Stewart contrasts the Hollywood cinema of ontological paranoia with earlier conspiracy thrillers, arguing that in recent Hollywood conspiracy thrillers ‘scepticism is entirely contained as a form of repressed narrational (rather than political) paranoia’ (19). Jameson borrows the term ‘cognitive mapping’ from the geographer Kevin Lynch’s The Image of the City (MIT Press, 1960) to describe the phenomenon by which people make sense of their urban surroundings. Peter Knight has critiqued Jameson’s theory as being ‘too determinate’ or ‘too powerful’: in the person’s poor cognitive mapping, Jameson ‘always finds a repressed understanding of economics’ (Knight 20). In other words, Jameson seems to imply that there is indeed a plot ‒ in the narrative sense ‒ to be uncovered (for example, the ‘bank conspiracy’ in The International). The IBBC and District Attorney office headquarters are visually contrasted with the anachronistic, dingy, homey, 1970s-style offices of the NYPD, where detectives continue to work in old-fashioned ways: in their shabby offices, cluttered with paper files, there isn’t a computer in sight. The conspirators themselves (the IBBC employees and board of directors) are not represented as evil, but simply as pragmatic businessmen doing their jobs. See A. Vidler, Warped Space: Art, Architecture and Anxiety in Modern Culture (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2002). Based on her reading of Habermas’ analysis of the emergence of the public sphere, she claims that ‘secrecy is the necessary flipside of there being a public realm at all’ and that, at present, ‘the very idea that the public has a right to know, that public rule depends on access to information, on full disclosure, puts the secret at the heart of the public’ (quoted in Knight 29). This seems to me to embody a somewhat romantic belief in acting blindly yet ethically: think of Jason Bourne, who, although he loses his memory, somehow manages to act ethically and exonerate himself of his past.

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Newhall, Beaumont, The History of Photography: From 1839 to the Present Day (New York: MOMA, 1964). Nordau, Max, Degeneration (London: Heinemann, 1920) (1892). Welcome Library Collection. Packer, Sharon, Movies and the Modern Psyche (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2007). Petro, Patrice, ‘Legacies of Weimar Cinema,’ in Cinema and Modernity, ed. Murray Pomerance (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2006), 235-253. Pinel, Philippe, A Treatise on Insanity, trans. D.D. Davis (New York: Hafner Publishing Company, 1962) (1801). Welcome Library Collection. Pisters, Patricia, ‘Illusionary Perception and Cinema: Experimental Thoughts on Film Theory and Neuroscience,’ in Deleuze and New Technology, ed. David Savat and Mark Poster (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009), 224-240. Pisters, Patricia, The Neuro-Image: A Deleuzian Film-Philosophy of Digital Screen Culture (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2012). Polack, Jean-Claude, ‘Un délire nostalgique’, in La raison en feu, ou la fascination du cinéma pour la folie. Ouvrage coordonne par Carole Desbarats (Saint-Sulpice-sur-Loire: L’ACOR, 1999), 23-27. Porter, Kamilla K., Frames of Mind: An Investigation into the History of the Photography of Psychiatric Patients. Unpublished dissertation, May 1993. Pratt, Ray, Projecting Paranoia: Conspiratorial Visions in American Film (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2001). Prince, Stephen, ‘Introduction: The Dark Genre and Its Paradoxes,’ in The Horror Film, ed. Stephen Prince (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2004), 1-15. Prodger, Phillip, ‘Photography and the Expression of the Emotions,’ in The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. 3rd ed. (London and New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1998) (1872), 399-410. Welcome Library Collection. Quart, Alissa, ‘Happy Endings: The Post-Nuclear Family According to Don Roos,’ Film Comment (July/August, 2005). Ribot, Theodore, The Diseases of Memory; The Diseases of the Will; The Diseases of Personality; The Psychology of Attention. J. Fitzgerald, trans. and publisher, 1883. Ribot, Theodore, The Psychology of Attention (Chicago: The Open Court Publishing Company, 1890). Rieber, Robert W., The Bifurcation of the Self: The History and Theory of Dissociation and Its Disorders (New York: Springer, 2006). Rodowick, D.N., ‘Madness, Authority, and Ideology in the Domestic Melodrama of the 1950s,’ in The Velvet Light Trap 19 (1982), 40-45. Rush, Benjamin, Medical Inquiries and Observations upon the Diseases of the Mind (New York: Hafner Publishing Company, 1962) (1812). Welcome Library Collection. Ryan, Judith, The Vanishing Subject: Early Psychology and Literary Modernism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991). Saito, Ayako, ‘Hitchcock’s Trilogy: A Logic of Mise en Scène,’ in Janet Bergstrom, ed. Night: Cinema and Psychoanalysis, Parallel Histories (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 200-249. Samuel, Lawrence R., Shrink: A Cultural History of Psychoanalysis in America (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2013). Santos, Marlisa, The Dark Mirror: Psychiatry and Film Noir (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2011). Seltzer, Mark, Bodies and Machines (New York: Routledge, 1992).


Warped Minds

Sharrett, Christopher, ‘End of Story: The Collapse of Myth in Postmodern Narrative Film,’ in The End of Cinema as We Know It: American Film in the Nineties, ed. Jon Lewis (New York: NYU Press, 2001), 319-331. Shimamura, Arthur, ‘Psychocinematics: Issues and Directions’, in Psychocinematics: Exploring Cognition at the Movies, ed. Arthur P. Shimamura (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 1-26. Slosson, Edward, ‘Introduction,’ in Henri Bergson, Dreams (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1914), 5-13. Steritt, David, ‘Fuller, Foucault, and Forgetting: The Eye of Power in Shock Corridor,’ in Cinema and Modernity, ed. Murray Pomerance (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2006), 194-211. Stevenson, Robert Louis, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, in 1900 A Fin de siècle Reader, ed. Mike Jay and Michael Neve (London: Penguin, 2000), 7-8. Stewart, Garrett, Framed Time: Toward a Postfilmic Cinema (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007). Szasz, Thomas, The Myth of Mental Illness (New York: Harper and Row, 1974). Tannenbaum, Samuel A., ‘Turns against Freud,’ New York Times, March 19, 1922. The Case of Sigmund Freud. Part 1: Freud’s Influence on 20th Century Writers and Thinkers. Produced by Mark Burman. London: BBC Radio 4, 2000. Welcome Library Collection. The Movies Begin: A Treasury of Early Cinema (1894-1913). Experimentation and Discovery. Kino International, 2002. The Origins of Scientific Cinematography: The Pioneers. Dir. Virgilio Tosi. Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), 1990. Welcome Library Collection. The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema. Dir. Sophie Fiennes. Amoeba Film, 2006. ‘To Def ine True Madness.’ Madness. Dir. Richard Denton. Narr. Jonathan Miller. Season 1. Episode 1. October 6, 1991. BBC. Welcome Library Collection. Todorov, Tzvetan, Genres in Discourse (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990). Tyjberg, Casper, ‘Shadow-Souls and Strange Adventures: Horror and the Supernatural in European Silent Film,’ in The Horror Film, ed. Stephen Prince (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2004), 15-40. Vidler, Anthony, Warped Space: Art, Architecture and Anxiety in Modern Culture (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2002). Walker, Janet, Couching Resistance: Women, Film, and Psychoanalytic Psychiatry (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993). Wedding, Danny, Mary Ann Boyd and Ryan M. Niemic, Movies and Mental Illness: Using Films to Understand Psychopathology, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, MA: Hogrefe and Huber Publishers, 2005). Winthrop-Young, Geoffrey and Michael Wutz, ‘Translators’ Introduction,’ in Friedrich A. Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999), xi-xxxix. Witkin, Joel-Peter, Harm’s Way: Lust and Madness, Murder and Mayhem: A Book of Photographs (Santa Fe, NM: Twin Palms Publishers, 1994). Wood, Robin, ‘The American Nightmare: Horror in the 70s,’ in Horror: The Film Reader, ed. Mark Jancovich (New York: Routledge, 2002), 25-32. Zaretsky, Eli, Secrets of the Soul: A Social and Cultural History of Psychoanalysis (New York: Random House, 2004). Žižek, Slavoj, ‘Cyberspace or the Unbearable Closure of Being,’ in Endless Night: Cinema and Psychoanalysis, Parallel Histories, ed. Janet Bergstrom (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 96-125.

Filmography All The President’s Men (Alan Pakula, 1974) Angels & Demons (Ron Howard, 2009) Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat (Auguste Lumière and Louis Lumière, 1895) Artist’s Dream, the (Georges Meliès, 1898) Astronaut’s Wife, The (Rand Ravich, 1999) Aviator, The (Martin Scorsese, 2004) A Woman Under the Influence (John Cassavetes, 1974) Bedlam (Mark Robson, 1946) Beggar’s Dream, The (Georges Meliès, 1898) Behind Locked Doors (Budd Boetticher, 1948) Bird with the Crystal Plumage, The (Dario Argento, 1970) Birds, The (Alfred Hitchcock, 1963) Bourne Identity, The (Doug Liman, 2002) Breach (Billy Ray, 2007) Butterfly Effect, The (Eric Bress, J. Mackye Gruber, 2004) Cabinet of Dr.Caligari, The (Robert Wiene, 1920) Caine Mutiny, The (Edward Dmytryk, 1954) Chaos (Coline Serreau, 2001) Code Unknown (Michael Haneke, 2000) Constant Gardener, The (Fernando Meirelles, 2005) Convicted by Hypnotism (Éclair, 1912) Crack-Up (Irving Reis, 1946) Dark Past, The (Rudolph Maté, 1948) Dark Waters (André de Toth, 1944) Da Vinci Code, The (Ron Howard, 2006) Deadline at Dawn (Harold Clurman, 1946) Deep Red (Dario Argento, 1975) Déjà vu (Tony Scott, 2006) Devil Doll (Tod Browning 1936) Dirty Pretty Things (Stephen Frears, 2002) Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2001) Dragonfly (Tom Sadyac, 2002) Dream of a Hindu Beggar (Georges Meliès, 1902)


Warped Minds

Dream of an Opium Fiend (Georges Meliès, 1908) Dream of the Ballet Master (Georges Meliès, 1903) Dr. Dippy’s Sanitarium (director unknown, 1906) Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (John Robertson, 1920) Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Lucius Henderson, 1912) Drunkard’s Dream, The (Georges Meliès, 1897) Enemy of the State (Tony Scott, 1998) Equus (Sidney Lumet, 1977) Escaped Lunatic, The (Wallace McCutcheon, 1904) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004) Fear in the Night (Maxwell Shane, 1947) Forgotten, The (Joseph Ruben, 2004) 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance (Michael Haneke, 1994) Funny Games (Michael Haneke, 1997) Fury (Fritz Lang, 1936) Game, The (David Fincher, 1997) Gaslight (George Cukor, 1945) Ghost Ship, The (Mark Robson, 1943) Gun Crazy (Joseph H. Lewis, 1950) Hands of Orlac, The (Robert Wiene, 1924) Happy Endings (Don Roos, 2005) Harold and Maude (Hal Ashby, 1971) High Wall (Curtis Bernhardt, 1947) Hollow Triumph (Steve Sekely, 1948) Human Beast, The (Jean Renoir, 1938) Hypnotist’s Revenge, The (Georges Meliès, 1909) Identity (James Mangold, 2003) Illusionist, The (Neil Burger, 2006) Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010) I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (Anthony Page, 1977) Insider, The (Michael Mann, 1999) International, The (Tom Tykwer, 2009) Interpreter, The (Sydney Polack, 2005) Island, The (Michael Bay, 2003) I, the Jury (Harry Essex, 1953)

Filmogr aphy

Jacket, The (John Maybury, 2005) Jekyll+Hyde (Nick Stillwell, 2006) Julien Donkey Boy (Harmony Korine, 1999) Keane (Lodge Kerrigan, 2004) Klute (Alan Pakula, 1971) Lake House, The (Alejandro Agresti, 2006) Last Year at Marienbad (Alain Resnais, 1961) Laura (Otto Preminger, 1944) Le mystère des roches de Kador (Leonce Perret, 1912) Lilith (Robert Rossen, 1964) M (Fritz Lang, 1931) Machinist, The (Brad Anderson, 2004) Mad Love (Evgeni Bauer, 1913-1916) Mad Love (Karl Freund, 1935) Manchurian Candidate, The (John Frankenheimer, 1962) Man in the Dark (Lew Landers, 1953) Marnie (Alfred Hitchcock, 1964) Matrix trilogy, The (Andy and Lana Wachowski, 1999-2003) Max Hypnotized (Max Linder, 1910) Memory (Bennett Davlin, 2006) Ministry of Fear (Fritz Lang, 1944) Mothman Prophecies, The (Mark Pellington, 2002) Mr. deeds Goes to town (Frank Capra, 1936) Muriel, or The Time of Return (Alain Resnais, 1963) My Name is Julia Ross (Joseph Lewis, 1945) Nightmare Alley (Edmund Goulding, 1949) Number 23, The (Joel Schumacher, 2007) On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (Vincente Minnelli, 1970) One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Milos Forman, 1975) Opera (Dario Argento, 1987) Ordinary People (Robert Redford, 1980) Parallax View, The (Alan Pakula, 1974) Penalty, The (Wallace Worsley, 1920) Pleasantville (Gary Ross, 1998)



Pollock (Ed Harris, 2000) Possessed (Curtis Bernhardt, 1947) Premonition (Mennan Yapo, 2007) Prestige, The (Christopher Nolan, 2006) Quills (Philip Kaufman, 2000) Return, The (Asif Kapadia, 2006) Salt (Phillip Noyce, 2010) Second Woman, The (James Kern, 1950) Se7en (David Fincher, 1995) Session 9 (Brad Anderson, 2001) Seventh Continent, The (Michael Haneke, 1989) Shadow on the Wall (Pat Jackson, 1950) Shock (Alfred Werker, 1946) Shock Corridor (Samuel Fuller, 1963) Shock Treatment (Denis Sanders, 1964) Shutter Island (Martin Scorsese, 2010) Silence of the Lambs, The (Jonathan Demme, 1991) Sixth Sense, The (M. Night Shyamalan, 1999) Sleep My Love (Douglas Sirk, 1948) Snake Pit, The (Anatole Litvak, 1948) So Dark the Night (Joseph Lewis, 1946) Somewhere in the Night (Joseph Mankiewicz, 1946) Spanish Prisoner, The (David Mamet, 1997) Spellbound (Alfred Hitchcock, 1945) Spider (David Cronenberg, 2002) Stay (Marc Forster, 2005) Stendhal Syndrome, The (Dario Argento, 1996) Strange Illusion (Edgar Ulmer, 1945) Strange Impersonation (Anthony Mann, 1946) Street of Chance (Jack Hively, 1942) Suddenly Last Summer (Joseph Mankiewicz, 1959) Suspect Zero (E. Elias Merhige, 2004) Sybil (Daniel Petrie, 1976) Syriana (Stephen Gaghan, 2005) Tenebre (Dario Argento, 1982) Thirteenth Floor, The (Josef Rusnak, 1999)

Warped Minds

Filmogr aphy

Three Days of the Condor (Sydney Pollack, 1975) Three Faces of Eve, The (Nunnally Johnson, 1957) Time of the Wolf (Michael Haneke, 2003) Total Recall (Paul Verhoeven, 1990) Traffic (Steven Soderbergh, 2000) Truman Show, The (Peter Weir, 1998) Vanilla Sky (Cameron Crowe, 2001) Vantage Point (Pete Travis, 2008) Village, The (M. Night Syamalan, 2004) Wag the Dog (Barry Levinson, 1997) Waxworks (Paul Leni, 1924) Where Danger Lives (John Farrow, 1950) White Heat, (Raoul Walsh, 1949) Whirlpool (Otto Preminger, 1949) Woman in the Window, The (Fritz Lang, 1944)


Index agency 41-43, 58, 111, 119-125, 131-135, 149, 159-197, 207-225 amnesia 38-39, 48-55, 62-67, 97, 112-114, 130-132, 140, 155, 159, 165, 175-194 anti-psychiatry 40, 68, 112, 142-144 Argento, Dario 147-149 see also giallo attention 16-18, 24, 38-76, 87-88, 99-106, 154-155, 173, 198, 230-231, 260-261 automatism 38-39, 69-70, 85, 94-96, 120-123, 151-153 human 38-39, 69-70, 94-96, 120-123 technical 39, 70, 85, 151-153 Bergson, Henri 36, 45, 57, 62-68, 105, 108, 171-173, 177-178, 184-188, 233, 241, 260, 262 and cinema 105 and madness 63-64, 67-68 and Pure Memory 66, 172, 185-186 brain 12-14, 44-66, 70-76, 83-85, 107-108, 116, 124-138, 151, 156-157, 168, 227, 231-232, 235, 243, 253-254 lesions of 64, 138, 238 localization 14, 50, 107, 243 Cavell, Stanley 39, 151-153, 166, 232, 251-252, 258 and cinema 39, 151-152, 166, 232, 251 and skepticism 39, 152, 251-252, 258 Charcot, Jean-Martin 43, 86, 90-101, 108-109, 121-123, 153, 235, 238-239, 241-242, 246 and hysteria 91, 97-101, 108, 121-122, 238, 241, 246 and La Salpêtrière 90-101, 240 chronotope 163-164, 177-178, 189, 194, 199-205, 263 cognitivism, ecological 156, 231 composite photography 91, 244 Conolly, John 78, 98 consciousness 16, 26, 31-33, 38-43, 48-68, 99-108, 123-125, 132, 151, 164-166, 170-173, 184-185, 191, 202, 212, 231, 232, 233, 235, 241, 244, 245, 257, 258, 260, 264 as inhibitory mechanism 38, 52, 62, 67, 231 conspiracy 207-226 and paranoia 207-208, 211-212, 216-225 conspiracy thriller 207-225 routinization of 208, 224 without conspiracy 207, 209, 210, 212, 224 see also Fredric Jameson Darwin, Charles 83, 242 de Boulogne, G. B. Duchenne 75, 78-83, 102, 109, 235

degeneracy, degeneration 43-49, 106, 229-230 and association of ideas 44-47, 230, 260 and attention 44-47 déjà vu 25, 57, 60, 67, 179, 198, 233 Diamond, Dr. Hugh 77-78, 83, 98, 234 discourse network 105-106, 153, 252 Doppelgänger/double 85, 111, 118-119, 130-131, 136, 138, 151, 157-160, 175, 196, 244-245, 255, 258-259 dreams, dreaming 15-16, 18-20, 63-67, 74-75, 99, 121, 131, 135-136, 145, 183-185, 220-222, 225-227, 244, 246, 253, 260 ECT (electro-convulsive therapy) 12, 142 Esquirol, J.E.D. 75-81, 241 European cinema 200-205, 265 and the chronotope of multiplicity 199-200 and globalization 200-204, 263 film noir 40, 130-139, 248, 250 see also madness Foucault, Michel 14-38, 146, 197, 208, 228 and evolution 22-30 and personal history 26-30 see also Mental Illness and Psychology Freud, Sigmund 14-23, 36, 66, 99-115, 121-124, 133, 137, 139, 140-141, 146, 151, 153, 157, 166-168, 171-172, 185, 208, 229, 241, 243, 244, 245, 245-246, 247, 248, 249 American popularizations of 132-140 and Anna O. 99-100, 111 and cinema 105-106, 111 and the somatic style 107-108 and the unconscious 15-16, 123-124, 146, 246, 247 see also psychoanalysis see also The Interpretation of Dreams giallo 40, 147-149 Hacking, Ian 27-28, 70, 151, 157, 162-166, 169-170, 184, 225, 252, 256, 257, 258, 264 and the ‘looping effect’ of discourse 225, 253-254, 256 and Rewriting the Soul 161-166, 225, 252, 256, 257, 258, 264 and The Social Construction of What? 256 Hollywood multiple films 25, 40, 151, 175-199, 204-206 and amnesia 165-194 and the chronotope of multiplicity 163-199 and de-mythologization 176, 182, 183, 184, 194, 197 therapeutic function of 204-206 hypnosis 40, 59, 96-97, 120-126, 130, 138, 246, 248, 255, 259

282  see also possession hysteria 11, 16, 21-23, 46-47, 54, 61, 70, 74, 84, 96-108, 121-122, 151-153, 224, 230, 238, 241, 243, 255, 257, 261-262 see also Anna O. see also Charcot inattentiveness, inattention 39, 45, 51, 57, 69-70, 153-154, 173, 231, 260-262 institutionalization 140, 142, 250 Interpretation of Dreams, The 14-17, 105-106, 151, 157, 234, 241, 244 Jameson, Fredric 208-213, 265 and cognitive mapping 209, 265 and heightened spatiality 209 James, William 108, 165, 171-174, 241, 260 and the discourse of the multiple 171-174 Janet, Pierre 25, 48, 106-108, 151, 161 Kittler, Friedrich 105-106, 153-155, 244, 246, 252 see also discourse network Lavater, Johann Kaspar 71-75, 80, 234, 235 Le Bon, Gustave 43, 121 Lombroso, Cesare 43-44, 126, 248 Londe, Albert 70, 85-109, 153, 235, 236, 237, 242 Macnish, Robert 74-75 madness 11-41, 44-67, 69-155 aestheticization of 38, 40, 149, 251 and class, gender, race 14, 43, 231 and criminality 43, 114, 126, 225 and dreams 15-20, 63-75, 121, 145 and film noir 40, 130-138, 250 and gender 12, 14, 60, 77, 134, 140-141, 155, 200, 205, 217 and medium specificity 39-40, 109-111, 245 and painting 77, 82, 87, 106, 110 and photography 11, 39, 69-104, 123, 151, 154, 157, 238-239, 242, 243, 257 and spectatorship 146-147 and World War II 129-130 as a social construct 142-143, 162, 195, 256 medical model of 11-14, 38-50, 57 organic theories of 111-119 physiognomic theories of 40, 69, 81, 95, 113-116 romanticization of 40, 143 social model of 13 Meliès, Georges 79-80, 109, 120 memory 14-18, 27, 39, 47-76, 106, 109, 127-128, 131-132, 135, 140-143, 151-204 false memory 58, 120 Mental Illness and Psychology 14-18 Morrison, Alexander Sir 75 multiple personality 96, 103, 140, 151-206, 224-225, 232-233, 239-261, 264

Warped Minds

Münsterberg, Hugo 14-18, 55-62, 122, 155-157, 199, 228, 231-233, 253 see also The Photoplay: A Psychological Study: see also Psychology and Crime: see also Psychology and Social Sanity: narrative, pathology of 176 Nordau, Max 43-50, 229-230 see also degeneration Nouvelle Iconographie de la Salpêtrière 92, 240 parallelism, mind-body 44, 64, 107-119 photography 11, 39, 69-104, 123, 151, 154, 157, 238-239, 242, 243, 257 and automatism 39, 70, 85-96, 151-152 and madness 11, 39, 69-104, 123, 151, 154, 157, 238-239, 242, 243, 257 and objectivity 11, 39, 77-101, 239, 242 and the unconscious 66-70, 94-101 see also composite photography Photoplay: A Psychological Study, The 14-20, 55, 122, 155-157 phrenology 43, 71, 83, 114, 124, 243 Pinel, Philippe 73-75 possession 11, 36, 118, 123, 138, 163, 173, 192, 196, 260 post-hypnotic suggestion 108, 120, 246 promiscuity 210-224 actantial 210-222 structural 222-224 psychiatry 12, 19-22, 33-40, 51-55, 68-97, 107-112, 124, 142-144, 153-155, 225, 242, 243, 252, 258 dynamic psychiatry 55, 96-97, 112 psychoanalysis 11-14, 33, 38-40, 105-151 and American Puritanism 167 American reception of 106-107, 245 and cinema 105-151 and the discourse network of 1900 105-106, 153, 252 and illegibility 81, 106 and language 38, 101, 105, 122, 136, 143, 147, 208, 241, 244, 251 and nonsense 106, 252 decline of 40, 144-149, 227 Psychology and Crime 55-60 Psychology and Social Sanity 60-64 psychopathology 14-41, 157, 207, 228, 229, 251, 253 cultural turn in 33, 38, 157-167, 196, 207, 227, 262 epistemological approach to 14, 33-38 ontological approach to 14-20, 33-38 therapeutic model of 11-41, 68, 120, 160, 169, 176-177, 189-207 Quetelet, Adolphe 91, 244 re-adjustment, social 140, 249 Rejlander, Oscar 83



Ribot, Theodore 51-52, 63, 197, 252 Rush, Benjamin 12, 73-76 sanity 39-40, 49, 52, 55-73, 81, 96, 103, 112, 115-119, 129-133, 137, 140, 144-145, 179, 190, 199, 246 schizophrenia 26, 130, 137-138, 144, 189, 224-225, 228, 231, 250-251, 253, 256, 261 statistics 77, 90, 244 see also Adolphe Quetelet style, somatic 107-109 theatricalization, theatricality 39, 70, 96-102, 151-153, 257 and hysteria 96-102 of self: 39, 70, 151-153 of symptoms 96-102 time 14-40, 58, 94, 106, 119-121, 145, 149, 156, 169-179, 186-206 pathology of 29-30

time-travel 25, 179-198, 263 Todorov, Tzvetan 147, 175, 261 trauma 25, 28-30, 35-36, 46, 106, 115, 121-125, 128-130, 132, 134, 140-141, 148-151, 155, 160-161, 168-169, 174-175, 177, 179, 182-183, 186, 189-199, 196, 204, 207, 228, 249, 250, 251, 256, 263 unconscious, the 15-16, 66-70, 94-101, 123-124, 146, 246, 247 Žižek, Slavoj 34-38, 254

Film Culture in Transition General Editor: Thomas Elsaesser

Thomas Elsaesser, Robert Kievit and Jan Simons (eds.) Double Trouble: Chiem van Houweninge on Writing and Filming, 1994 isbn paperback 978 90 5356 025 9 Thomas Elsaesser, Jan Simons and Lucette Bronk (eds.) Writing for the Medium: Television in Transition, 1994 isbn paperback 978 90 5356 054 9 Karel Dibbets and Bert Hogenkamp (eds.) Film and the First World War, 1994 isbn paperback 978 90 5356 064 8 Warren Buckland (ed.) The Film Spectator: From Sign to Mind, 1995 isbn paperback 978 90 5356 131 7; isbn hardcover 978 90 5356 170 6 Egil Törnqvist Between Stage and Screen: Ingmar Bergman Directs, 1996 isbn paperback 978 90 5356 137 9; isbn hardcover 978 90 5356 171 3 Thomas Elsaesser (ed.) A Second Life: German Cinema’s First Decades, 1996 isbn paperback 978 90 5356 172 0; isbn hardcover 978 90 5356 183 6 Thomas Elsaesser Fassbinder’s Germany: History Identity Subject, 1996 isbn paperback 978 90 5356 059 4; isbn hardcover 978 90 5356 184 3 Thomas Elsaesser and Kay Hoffmann (eds.) Cinema Futures: Cain, Abel or Cable? The Screen Arts in the Digital Age, 1998 isbn paperback 978 90 5356 282 6; isbn hardcover 978 90 5356 312 0 Siegfried Zielinski Audiovisions: Cinema and Television as Entr’Actes in History, 1999 isbn paperback 978 90 5356 313 7; isbn hardcover 978 90 5356 303 8 Kees Bakker (ed.) Joris Ivens and the Documentary Context, 1999 isbn paperback 978 90 5356 389 2; isbn hardcover 978 90 5356 425 7 Egil Törnqvist Ibsen, Strindberg and the Intimate Theatre: Studies in TV Presentation, 1999 isbn paperback 978 90 5356 350 2; isbn hardcover 978 90 5356 371 7

Michael Temple and James S. Williams (eds.) The Cinema Alone: Essays on the Work of Jean-Luc Godard 1985-2000, 2000 isbn paperback 978 90 5356 455 4; isbn hardcover 978 90 5356 456 1 Patricia Pisters and Catherine M. Lord (eds.) Micropolitics of Media Culture: Reading the Rhizomes of Deleuze and Guattari, 2001 isbn paperback 978 90 5356 472 1; isbn hardcover 978 90 5356 473 8 William van der Heide Malaysian Cinema, Asian Film: Border Crossings and National Cultures, 2002 isbn paperback 978 90 5356 519 3; isbn hardcover 978 90 5356 580 3 Bernadette Kester Film Front Weimar: Representations of the First World War in German Films of the Weimar Period (1919-1933), 2002 isbn paperback 978 90 5356 597 1; isbn hardcover 978 90 5356 598 8 Richard Allen and Malcolm Turvey (eds.) Camera Obscura, Camera Lucida: Essays in Honor of Annette Michelson, 2003 isbn paperback 978 90 5356 494 3 Ivo Blom Jean Desmet and the Early Dutch Film Trade, 2003 isbn paperback 978 90 5356 463 9; isbn hardcover 978 90 5356 570 4 Alastair Phillips City of Darkness, City of Light: Émigré Filmmakers in Paris 1929-1939, 2003 isbn paperback 978 90 5356 634 3; isbn hardcover 978 90 5356 633 6 Thomas Elsaesser, Alexander Horwath and Noel King (eds.) The Last Great American Picture Show: New Hollywood Cinema in the 1970s, 2004 isbn paperback 978 90 5356 631 2; isbn hardcover 978 905356 493 6 Thomas Elsaesser (ed.) Harun Farocki: Working on the Sight-Lines, 2004 isbn paperback 978 90 5356 635 0; isbn hardcover 978 90 5356 636 7 Kristin Thompson Herr Lubitsch Goes to Hollywood: German and American Film after World War I, 2005 isbn paperback 978 90 5356 708 1; isbn hardcover 978 90 5356 709 8 Marijke de Valck and Malte Hagener (eds.) Cinephilia: Movies, Love and Memory, 2005 isbn paperback 978 90 5356 768 5; isbn hardcover 978 90 5356 769 2 Thomas Elsaesser European Cinema: Face to Face with Hollywood, 2005 isbn paperback 978 90 5356 594 0; isbn hardcover 978 90 5356 602 2

Michael Walker Hitchcock’s Motifs, 2005 isbn paperback 978 90 5356 772 2; isbn hardcover 978 90 5356 773 9 Nanna Verhoeff The West in Early Cinema: After the Beginning, 2006 isbn paperback 978 90 5356 831 6; isbn hardcover 978 90 5356 832 3 Anat Zanger Film Remakes as Ritual and Disguise: From Carmen to Ripley, 2006 isbn paperback 978 90 5356 784 5; isbn hardcover 978 90 5356 785 2 Wanda Strauven The Cinema of Attractions Reloaded, 2006 isbn paperback 978 90 5356 944 3; isbn hardcover 978 90 5356 945 0 Malte Hagener Moving Forward, Looking Back: The European Avant-garde and the Invention of Film Culture, 1919-1939, 2007 isbn paperback 978 90 5356 960 3; isbn hardcover 978 90 5356 961 0 Tim Bergfelder, Sue Harris and Sarah Street Film Architecture and the Transnational Imagination: Set Design in 1930s European Cinema, 2007 isbn paperback 978 90 5356 984 9; isbn hardcover 978 90 5356 980 1 Jan Simons Playing the Waves: Lars von Trier’s Game Cinema, 2007 isbn paperback 978 90 5356 991 7; isbn hardcover 978 90 5356 979 5 Marijke de Valck Film Festivals: From European Geopolitics to Global Cinephilia, 2007 isbn paperback 978 90 5356 192 8; isbn hardcover 978 90 5356 216 1 Asbjørn Grønstad Transfigurations: Violence, Death, and Masculinity in American Cinema, 2008 isbn paperback 978 90 8964 010 9; isbn hardcover 978 90 8964 030 7 Vinzenz Hediger and Patrick Vonderau (eds.) Films that Work: Industrial Film and the Productivity of Media, 2009 isbn paperback 978 90 8964 013 0; isbn hardcover 978 90 8964 012 3 Pasi Väliaho Mapping the Moving Image: Gesture, Thought and Cinema circa 1900, 2010 isbn paperback 978 90 8964 140 3; isbn hardcover 978 90 8964 141 0 Pietsie Feenstra New Mythological Figures in Spanish Cinema: Dissident Bodies under Franco, 2011 isbn paperback 978 90 8964 304 9; isbn hardcover 978 90 8964 303 2

Eivind Røssaak (ed.) Between Stillness and Motion: Film, Photography, Algorithms, 2011 isbn paperback 978 90 8964 212 7; isbn hardcover 978 90 8964 213 4 Tara Forrest Alexander Kluge: Raw Materials for the Imagination, 2011 isbn paperback 978 90 8964 272 1; isbn hardcover 978 90 8964 273 8 Belén Vidal Figuring the Past: Period Film and the Mannerist Aesthetic, 2012 isbn 978 90 8964 282 0 Bo Florin Transition and Transformation: Victor Sjöström in Hollywood 1923-1930, 2012 isbn 978 90 8964 504 3 Erika Balsom Exhibiting Cinema in Contemporary Art, 2013 isbn 978 90 8964 471 8 Gilles Mouëllic Improvising Cinema, 2013 isbn 978 90 8964 551 7 Christian Jungen Hollywood in Canne$: The History of a Love-Hate Relationship, 2014 isbn 978 90 8964 566 1 Michael Cowan Walter Ruttmann and the Cinema of Multiplicity: Avant-Garde Film ‒ Advertising ‒ Modernity, 2014 isbn 978 90 8964 585 2