A Forum for and the Background of the Mediation of Dialogue in Ancient and Modern Academies

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Tracing Hitchcock: Rebecca. A Thrilling Fairy Tale

There are very few directors who know how to film children: Truffaut's 400 Blows happens to manifest this virtue (cf. Tarkovsky and Angelopoulos as counter-examples of rather depicting symbols of childhood: a different approach). After having this nouvelle vague intermezzo, the Cambridge Cine-Gang decided to delve into Hitchcock's art and devote a retrospective to his masterpieces: This time we watched Rebecca (1940), which belongs - as well as Notorious - to the period in which he collaborated with the producer David Selznick. This is his first Hollywood film but apart from the American Studio everything else was British: both the mystery novel written by Daphne du Maurier (1938) and the cast. Joan Fontaine plays the young woman without name, who literally takes Rebecca's place after falling in love with Maxim de Winter. Sir Laurence Olivier is Maxim de Winter, who "saves" the young lady from the hands of her intolerable female boss in Monte Carlo only to locate her under Mrs. Danvers' reign, who is the housekeeper in Manderley. It is eight years before Olivier's Hamlet: He is already a delight to watch, directed by another film genius.
During half of the screening I kept whispering: Both are not real persons! They are so pure. They are unreal. How is it possible to bring them into dialogue? In the second half, I was praising Hitchcock to the skies, as we all did: He is splendid! He is brilliant! We get to know Maxim's background story while we begin to encounter the anonymous lady: She initiates her story and we witness this beginning. At the end we are startled when trying to recall her name to no avail. She has no name. The house is the third person, as Hitchcock himself revealed to Truffaut. There is no suggestive threefold division of the house like in the following Notorious (wine-cellar, ground floor and first floor) but the psychoanalytical elements are present nonetheless.
As Hitchcock was engaged further on in Daphne du Maurier (Jamaica Inn and The Birds), he prompts us to read her novels and stories, even if afterwards.
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Monday, 11 May 2009

Back to Business: The Phaedrus in Cambridge

Against the background of catchy sounds and rhythms, it is time to return to the business (so ἐπιτήδευμα) of philosophy. As I promised, here is a picture I can draw of the past Colloquium on the Phaedrus:
Plato has taught us to philosophize on types and thoughts rather than on persons. I will thus allow myself to avoid any references to living scholars. We should express though our special thanks to Jenny Bryan and Helen van Noorden for organizing this meeting.

So as to sum up the moral of the conference in my own words and according to my understanding: There are no absolute boundaries between the hermeneutics on the different sides of the Channel, although there are still proponents of two-world theories or rather prejudices. As I happen to be neither harmonist nor harmonizer, I do not want to level any differences. I am just asserting that this conference may have been held in Germany as well. The reading sessions were, as expected, very fruitful, on some occassions even stronger than given papers.
Schleiermacher was present, as always in current Anglo-Saxon context. Once more it proved to be problematic and intriguing to integrate the relation of philia and eros as well as mania into their cultural environment and to fathom the relation between rhetoric and dialectics.
Surprisingly for me, even one kind of Derrida's reading was represented. I remind that a number of academics from Cambridge University tried to stop the granting of his Cambridge doctoral degree (1992). They were out-numbered when it was put to a vote, which happens very rarely indeed in such a procedure. As far as interesting political gestures concern, it seems to me that the following question suggests itself: Are we able to, and, if we are, should we put Dadaism into a museum? The answer I am inclined to give is a negative one I am afraid.

The weather is all Greek to me for the time being and the Sun-days spent in the famous orchard in Grantchester are recreative...