THE WRITING ON THE SCREEN: IMAGES OF TEXT IN THE GERMAN CINEMA FROM 1920 TO 1949
By establishing a crucial figural relation between image and text in the cinema, this dissertation offers a detailed analysis of the uses of writing through select canonical works of a significant period in the history of the German cinema. Drawing on Walter Benjamin's theory of allegory and Gilles Deleuze's conceptions of the cinematic image, as well as a Derridean definition of writing, I argue that instances of written text in images of the German cinema are social hieroglyphs rendered as allegorical gestures, which inscribe questions of authority in the form of grammatological constellations within the movement of images. These hieroglyphic configurations, spelled out as writing on the screen, stand in reference to specific modalities which affirm the presence of a larger organizational regime of truth. Instances of writing thus constitute the inscriptions through which such structures of power acquire legibility and, conversely, become visible. Ultimately, this figural regime delineates questions of the political constitution of the state because the struggle for authority and its legitimacy as an organizational system become embodied in allegorical forms of writing that inscribe the body politic into filmic texts as subject positions. This approach is predicated on a subjunctive dimension that redefines the intrinsic relation of the text to its "outside." Chapters discuss the figure of authority in "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" and "Kameradschaft," circularity in Fritz Lang's "M" and his "Mabuse" films, titles and writing in early Weimar film censorship decisions, the star figure of Emil Jannings in the Nazi film "Ohm Krüger," and the postwar films "Die Mörder Sind Unter Uns" and "Rotation." An epilogue investigates the reconfigurations of writing on the screen in R.W. Fassbinder's "Die Dritte Generation" (1979) and the 1998 hacker film "23". In all of these case studies, I contend that writing in film remains significant when the image as such must be augmented by gestures toward a figural language.
Advisor:Prof. Marcia Landy; Prof. Paul A. Bové; Prof. Lucy Fischer; Prof. Linda Schulte-Sasse
School:University of Pittsburgh
School Location:USA - Pennsylvania
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Date of Publication:07/06/2006