University of Sussex
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The (un)scene of memory: energetic theory and representation in theatre and film

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posted on 2023-06-07, 15:51 authored by Graeme G Pedlingham
The wager of this thesis is that, firstly, there exists an intrinsic relationship between memory and representation in visual performative media and, secondly, that a referential, Aristotelian conception of memory is made problematic by these same visual media. There are aspects within the ontology of both theatre and film, the specific media examined, which resist the model of representation that this memory constitutes. It is my contention that there is an alternative conception of memory, more appropriate to the difficulties that theatre and film present, which enables another way of understanding these media. This other memory is derived from the distinction in Freud's work between psychoanalysis as a hermeneutics, and as an energetics. I draw upon an 'energetic' conception of memory as the foundation for an energetic approach to theatre and film. In the first chapter I enunciate this distinction in Freud's work, tracing his energetic model from the Project of 1895 to the role of affect in the metapsychological papers, before moving to its elaboration by later psychoanalysts (including André Green, Christopher Bollas and César and Sára Botella). For the second chapter, I relate this psychoanalytic discussion to poststructuralist theory, which Freudian energetics has considerably influenced. This is examined through Jacques Derrida's interpretation of Freud's work on memory, and Jean-François Lyotard's own philosophy of energetics (with which much of my work is in dialogue). The third and fourth chapters turn to theatre and film respectively. Each chapter initially explores the aspects of each medium that complicate the more familiar notion of referential memory as a relevant model of representation. I then establish how these same points of difficulty demonstrate an affinity with an energetic approach, opening the possibility of a new way of thinking theatre and film through memory, and of thinking memory through these visual media. A comparative approach is taken to identify and articulate the distinctiveness of these particular media, through their unique interactions with energetic theory. Looking ahead, this aims to provide the foundation for developing a means of addressing emergent visual media (particularly the videogame), which similarly complicates hermeneutic readings, based upon a study of their most significant antecedents: theatre and film.


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