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PLAI 500 (Winter 2011): Advanced Interdisciplinary Humanities Seminar

Memory, Philosophy and Film: Reading Bergson, Reading Cinema

Instructors: Alia Al-Saji (Philosophy) and Yuriko Furuhata (East Asian Studies)


This interdisciplinary course seeks to think the relation of cinema and memory by means of a study of Bergson and film theory. The encounter between Bergson and film constitutes a productive location for merging disciplinary traditions. The first half of the course will focus on reading Bergson on memory. The second half of the course will examine more closely the question of how cinema and memory intertwine. Though Bergson gives one explicit answer to this question (cinematographic perception as the forgetting of duration), his philosophy of memory opens multiple possibilities for rethinking cinema’s relation to temporality and its function as mnemonic technology. Deleuze develops one such route (cinema as indirect or direct image of time). But different answers are provided by contemporary film theory, taking up but also moving beyond Bergsonism. The film theoretical discourses on indexicality, archival trace, and embodied phenomenological perception offer different understandings of cinema’s relation to time. Film presents a technologically and visually mediated mode of time, challenging us to think through the complex relations among memory, archive, index and vision.
It is strongly recommended that students enrolling in this course possess a good background in philosophy and/or film theory.
Prerequisites: One 400-level course in Continental Philosophy (PHIL 474/475 or other), OR one 400-level course in Film, OR permission of the instructors.