Online Workshop: Reconceiving Wittgenstein’s and Cavell’s Philosophies of Film

August 18, 2022
ICUB-Humanities, Research Institute of the University of Bucharest, University of Bucharest



ICUB-Humanities, Research Institute of The University of Bucharest


ICUB-Humanities, Research Institute of The University of Bucharest

Topic areas

Talks at this conference

Add a talk


Online Workshop: Reconceiving Wittgenstein’s and Cavell’s Philosophies of Film

Format: online (on Zoom)

Date: Thursday, 18th August 2022 (14:00-17:00 UTC / GMT)

All welcome. No registration needed (the Zoom login details are below).


14:00-15:00 Kate Rennebohm (Concordia University – Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema)

 “‘What happens to reality when it is projected?’: Reconceiving Projection in The World Viewed and Stanley Cavell’s Film Theory”

15:00-16:00 Mihai Ometiță (ICUB-Humanities – Research Institute of the University of Bucharest)

“Happy-Ending Films as Wish-Fulfilment Dreams: Aesthetics of Cinema after Wittgenstein on Freud”

16:00-17:00 Rupert Read (University of East Anglia – School of Politics, Philosophy, Languages)

“Arendt and Wittgenstein ‘on’ the Aesthetic Form of Cuaron’s Gravity

Zoom login details:

Meeting ID: 860 7004 5556
Passcode: 867365

Any question about the workshop you might have, please write to [email protected]

* This workshop is part of the project “Faces of Cinematographic Modernism” (CineMode) funded by CNCS-UEFISCDI, project number PN-III-P1-1.1-PD-2019-0373, within PNCDI III.


Kate Rennebohm– “What happens to reality when it is projected?”: Reconceiving Projection in The World Viewed and Stanley Cavell’s Film Theory

In his path-breaking book The World Viewed (1971/79), philosopher Stanley Cavell references the thought of realist film theorist André Bazin, while also claiming that film “projects and screens reality.” Such claims and references have made realism a predominant theme in Cavell’s broader reception in Film Studies. However, as this paper will demonstrate, closer attention to Cavell’s use of the term “projection”—a recurring topic for his broader philosophical work, as a well as a nexus point for his aesthetic, political, and moral thought—thoroughly shifts the way “reality” is understood in The World Viewed. As I will argue here, such a realization reorients much of the received wisdom about Cavell’s career-long writing on film.With The Claim of Reason (1979), a book written both prior to and contemporaneously with The World Viewed, Cavell undertook lengthy investigations into projection. Bringing this material into conjunction with his early film writings for the first time, this paper develops a model for Cavell’s thinking about cinema that departs from classical realist theory. Now, rather than reproducing or documenting our world, film’s projections share in and refract humans’ projections; that is, the grounding form of life in which individuals constantly project priorly learned concepts into new scenarios. Films’ projections both displace and concretize this life-work, providing a site for grappling with reality as something built and maintained in individuals’ projections (Cavell: “society is projected in human relations”). I will describe here how this reconception clarifies the ethical and political weight Cavell attributes to film as a social-technological medium; revealing how, for the philosopher, film’s projections serve as a reminder that reality—that is, the projections comprising reality—is in transformation, and is thus transformable.

Mihai Ometiță – Happy-Ending Films as Wish-Fulfilment Dreams: Aesthetics of Cinema after Wittgenstein on Freud

The value of Wittgenstein’s philosophy for thinking about cinema is widely acknowledged. However, on the received view, all that he as a spectator sought in film was a relief from philosophizing. I challenge that view by corroborating his reception of psychoanalysis as aesthetics with two under-explored strands of his manuscript remarks: those on cinema and those on tragedy. Firstly, I reconstruct Wittgenstein’s cinematographic canon between the 1920s and the 1940s, which favors what he calls the “naivety” of early Hollywood films over the maker’s “intrusion” in British and Continental films. That canon, which exhibits a taxonomy of films following criteria other than narrative genres, shooting styles, or historical cycles, turns out to be at odds with the filmic kinds which his life and work inspired and which his philosophy is often applied to. Secondly, I show that Wittgenstein’s cinematographic canon (involving a polyadic logic he finds manifest in musical modernism) subverts the classical notions (involving a dyadic logic he finds at work in Aristotle’s conception) of comedy and tragedy as contradictory genres. Finally, I revalue the explicitly Freudian twist Wittgenstein gives in 1930 to the (by then clichéd) analogy between films and dreams: according to that twist, happy-ending films function like wish-fulfilment dreams. I claim that, after Wittgenstein’s 1938 Lectures on Aesthetics, the wishes allegedly fulfilled by films are not to be understood as “something like imagery, which is [taken to be] the international language”. Instead, the fulfilment of a wish “by” a film is similar to the sense of a proposition in a text: a wish and its fulfilment, like a sign and its sense, are two sides of the same coin.

Rupert Read – Arendt and Wittgenstein ‘on’ the Aesthetic Form of Cuaron’s Gravity

I argue that the form of the shooting of Alphonso Cuaron’s great 3-D film Gravity manifests the idea present in the opening of Arendt’s The Human Condition. That form, which literally mirrors the arc of an object subject to gravity, and of a subject undertaking (or subject to) ‘the hero’s journey’, can in turn be better understood by reference to section 527 of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, which suggests how art sometimes demands to be understood by analogy with the form of logic. Thus Gravity is a space odyssey, with an important meaning for a planet in ecological crisis, “piloted” by an ideological obsession with progress that is driving us all over a cliff in a manner that Wittgenstein would have found unsurprising. The proposed response to that crisis in Gravity is diametrically opposed to that found in Christopher Nolan’s rival blockbuster, Interstellar, which might easily have been titled Anti-Gravity.

Supporting material

Add supporting material (slides, programs, etc.)




Who is attending?

No one has said they will attend yet.

Will you attend this event?

Let us know so we can notify you of any change of plan.