Thursday, April 02, 2009

Taking Care with our Words

I have been listening to the lectures at the storytellers' symposium, which took place this past Fall under the sponsorship and direction of the Act One program. Free Mp3 downloads of all the talks are available here. My friend, Clayton, who blogs at the Weight of Glory, was the one who got me onto them.

He has a very well done set of Station meditations based on the Passion of the Christ, which he is posting in packets. Give him a visit and spike his stats. You will not be disappointed.

- Back to the Story symposium -

During one of the talks, one of the screenwriters was talking about "haunting scenes" and writing as "obsession".

There was also much discussion of whether the cinematic craft is essentially one of storytelling or image-making.

These two strains intertwined often, producing lively discussion in which one of the best popularizing philosophers of the 2nd half of the 20th century and the first decades of the 21st, Peter Kreeft, was rather less engaged than I would have liked to see him.

I say the contribution of a philosopher was lacking in important points, because the participants were using words like "haunting" and "obsession" to describe a kind of screenwriting and a moment or condition of the writers' art, while haunting and obsession both describe a speechless state of quasi-presence.

I think the screenwriter-participants were using the words in a different, more commonplace sense, which does not exclude speech and so skirts the oxymoronic on one level, only to crash against it on another - and here is where the philosopher could have been of service: I mean to say, in parsing the questions that arise when one uses a word that, in one time and place, means an almost palpable though speechless and shadowy quasi-presence, to describe a mode of writing, or a kind of scene, rather than simply an affect of the scene.

A few of the questions that occur to me are:

  • What is the relationship of the word to the thing?
  • What are the moral implications of the default position - the uncritical presupposition according to which a thing simply is what one says it is?
  • Assuming that the end of screenwriting is the making of a motion picture, and accepting causa argumenti that movie scenes can be (let this be different from simply conveying the feeling of) haunting, what does this tell us about the relation of language to experience, especially the experience of viewing?

These are just a few questions that arise for me, and as they are, they are not very well articulated, but they will have to do for now. I am very tired, and nearing the end of a long week filled with long days and very short nights.

Any of the more than 100 visitors I have had in the past 24 hours please feel free to jump in on this or any of the other posts, any time.


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