15 May 2013

Literature & the Intermedial Gaze: Cinematic Configurations of Literary Process

Please join us for the next seminar of Inventions of the Text 2012/13

 Literature & the Intermedial Gaze: Cinematic Configurations of Literary Process

Professor Judith Buchanan

University of York


Wednesday 22nd May 2013

5:30 – 7:00 pm

Department of English Studies, Hallgarth House Seminar Room


Speaker: Dr. Judith Buchanan, University of York

  Recent years have seen a proliferation of films about writers, real and fictional, and an enhanced interest in acts of writing as a filmed subject. In the first half of my talk, I ask how filmmakers have narratively and iconographically configured writers’ lives and acts of writing, and how they have reflected upon the material, imaginative and commercial operations of literary processes. In the second half, I will take one example of a fairly recent film in which (in this case, fictional) acts of writing are narratively and iconographically central. Von Donnersmarck’s Das Leben der Anderen/ The Lives of Others (2006) is anchored in two politically and aesthetically opposed acts of writing emerging from two comparably opposed authors. As the film identifies and then tracks the incremental erosion of this opposition, the suspicions that attach to author figures in the literarily censorious GDR before 1989 come under scrutiny. The self-preserving imperative to anonymise a dissenting piece of work is here shown to be matched by the comparably insistent institutional imperative to deanonymise such a work. And the series of counterposed quests to discover the author of a work – the Stasi operative’s desire to know the playwright, the state’s desire to know the dissident writer, the playwright’s desire to know the writer of his surveillance report – illustrate, in hyperbolised form, a psycho-social ‘desire’ for the author that arguably informs every act of reading.


  Judith Buchanan is Professor of Film and Literature in the Department of English and Related Literature and Director of the Humanities Research Centre at the University of York. Publications include the monographs Shakespeare on Film (Longman-Pearson, 2005) and Shakespeare on Silent Film: An Excellent Dumb Discourse (Cambridge University Press, 2009), the edited collection The Writer on Film: Screening Literary Authorship (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) and numerous articles on literature and silent cinema, and early cinema's relations to the other arts. Current projects include work on The Tempest in performance, on murderous women in film and literature and on cinema and the machine. She speaks regularly in arts cinemas as well as to academics.

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