Underworld USA: Psychoanalysis and Film Theory in the 1980s

  • Elizabeth Cowie
Part of the Communications and Culture book series (COMMCU)


This chapter is an attempt to review the role of psychoanalysis in film theory, and in particular, the way it has been used to propose a metapsychology of cinema. The use of the term metapsychology follows Freud’s description of his papers on ‘Instincts and Their Vicissitudes’, ‘Repression’ and ‘The Unconscious’, published in 1915, as metapsychological; that is, concerned with producing general theoretical concepts for the understanding of human psychology. In a similar way, a metapsychology of cinema will be concerned with the phenomenon of cinema in general for the individual psyche. It asks, how is the spectator a subject, in the psychoanalytic sense, for cinema? How does cinema work on us and for us as psychical subjects, that is, as subjects of desire?


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 2.
    David Will and Peter Wollen (eds), Samuel Fuller ( Film Festival, Edin- burgh, 1969 ).Google Scholar
  2. 10.
    Constance Penley, ‘Feminism, Film Theory and the Bachelor Machines’, ml no. 10 (1985), p. 10.Google Scholar
  3. 12.
    Ben Brewster, Colin MacCabe and Stephen Heath, ‘Reply to Julia Lesage’, Screen, vol. 16, no. 2, (1975), p. 87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 13.
    Stephen Heath, ‘Lessons from Brecht’, Screen, vol. 15, no. 2 (1984), pp. 106–7.Google Scholar
  5. 16.
    Jacqueline Rose, Sexuality in the Field of Vision ( Verso, London, 1986 ), p. 158.Google Scholar
  6. 26.
    S. Heath, ‘Anata mo’, Screen vol. 14, no. 4, (1976/7), p. 64.Google Scholar
  7. 27.
    Julia Kristeva, Revolution in Poetic Language, Margaret Waller (trans). ( Columbia University Press, New York, 1984 ), p. 29.Google Scholar
  8. 28.
    R. Bellour, ‘Le blocage symbolique’, Communications, no. 23 (1975).Google Scholar
  9. 29.
    Roland Barthes, ‘Diderot, Brecht, Eisenstein’, Screen, vol. 15, no. 2 (1974), p. 36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Elizabeth Cowie 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth Cowie

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations