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Palgrave Macmillan

Refractions of Reality: Philosophy and the Moving Image

ISBN 9780230582316
Publication Date January 2009
Formats Ebook (PDF) Paperback Ebook (EPUB) Hardcover 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

Why is film becoming increasingly important to philosophers? Is it because it can be a helpful tool in teaching philosophy, in illustrating it? Or is it because film can also think for itself, can create its own philosophy? Indeed, many film-philosophers claim that film does more than merely illustrate philosophical texts: rather, film itself can philosophise in direct audio-visual terms. Too often, however, when philosophers claim to find indigenous philosophical value in cinema, it is only on account of refracting it through their own thought: film philosophises because it accords with a favoured kind of extant philosophy.

Refractions of Reality: Philosophy and the Moving Image is the first book to examine all the central issues surrounding the vexed relationship between the film-image and philosophy. In it, John Mullarkey tackles the work of particular philosophers and theorists (Žižek, Deleuze, Cavell, Bordwell, Badiou, Branigan, Rancière, Frampton, and many others) as well as general philosophical positions (Analytical and Continental, Cognitivist and Culturalist, Psychoanalytic and Phenomenological). Moreover, it also offers an incisive analysis and explanation of several prominent forms of film theorising, providing a meta‑logical account of their mutual advantages and deficiencies that will prove immensely useful to anyone interested in the details of particular theories of film presently circulating, as well as correcting, revising, and re‑visioning the field of film theory as a whole.

Throughout, Mullarkey asks whether the reduction of film to text is unavoidable. In particular: must philosophy (and theory) always transform film into pre-texts for illustration? What would it take to imagine how film might itself theorise without reducing it to standard forms of thought and philosophy? Finally, and fundamentally, must we change our definition of philosophy and even of thought itself in order to accommodate the specificities that come with the claim that film can produce philosophical theory?

JOHN MULLARKEY is Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Dundee, Scotland. His publications include Bergson and Philosophy (1999) and Post-Continental Philosophy: An Outline (2006). He is an editor of Film-Philosophy.com.

Preface: The Film-Envy of Philosophy
Introduction: Nobody Knows Anything!
Illustrating Manuscripts
Bordwell and Other Cogitators
Žižek and the Cinema of Perversion
Deleuze's Kinematic Philosophy
Cavell, Badiou, and Other Ontologists
Expanded Cognitions and the Speeds of Cinema
Fabulation, Process and Event
Refractions of Reality Or, What is Thinking Anyway?
Conclusion: Code Unknown - A Bastard Theory for a Bastard Art


'This book, in some sense, brings to an end a certain phase of film theorizing and instead looks toward something quite new: how theories have been written and how they may be written, how they fall into types, how these types are filling out not a logical grid but a grid of the anxieties we feel, and the defenses we erect toward the everyday. A wonderful, ground-breaking book.' - Edward Branigan (University of California, Santa Barbara), author of Projecting a Camera: Language-Games in Film Theory and Narrative Comprehension and Film
'Highly original both in its concern for avoiding the illustrative approach generally favoured by philosophers, and in the speculative ambition that looms behind the critical edge of its readings of contemporary film- philosophers. The very question "when does the film itself happen?" is a fundamental one, which is rarely addressed. Mullarkey is opening the door to a brand new type of philosophical engagement with films.' - Elie During (Université de Paris X-Nanterre), author of Matrix: Machine philosophique
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