The Cinematic Apparatus: Problems in Current Theory

  • Jacqueline Rose


A paradox seems to be emerging from recent developments in film theory. On the one hand, within feminism, the debate about sexuality is being posed increasingly with reference to construction or representation (the dialogue with psychoanalysis). In this debate, the cinematic image is taken as both the model of and term for a process of representation through which sexual difference is constructed and maintained. This is in direct continuity with what has always been for women an attention to the ‘image’, the necessity recognised by feminism, and in a sense specific to it, of posing the political problem in terms of the constructed image: at its simplest, the question of ‘how we see ourselves’; more especially for cinema, the question of woman as spectacle. What is crucial about these discussions is that they start from the question of sexual difference, this being the concept, or position, on which the analysis is based. On the other hand, as a corrective to earlier tendencies in semiotics (the problem of formalism1) and to the reductive ways of conceptualising the cinematic apparatus (simple notions of determination by the technological), an appeal is being made to psychoanalysis which seems systematically to ignore the question of sexual difference.


Sexual Difference Photographic Image Present Volume Film Process Analogical Repetition 
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  1. 3.
    Luce Irigaray, Speculum, de l’autre femme (Paris: Minuit, 1974), p. 54.Google Scholar
  2. 10.
    See especially, Luce Irigaray, Ce Sexe qui n’en est pas un (Paris: Minuit, 1977).Google Scholar
  3. 12.
    J. -F. Lyotard, ‘The Unconscious as Mise en Scène’, in Michel Benamou and Charles Caramello (eds.), Performance (Madison: Coda Press, 1978), p. 94.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited and Teresa de Lauretis and Stephen Heath 1980

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  • Jacqueline Rose

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