Included as part of the Official Selection in the Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival in 1975, Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles brought the then twenty-five-year-old Chantal Akerman to international attention. Widely acclaimed for its thematic and formal originality, the novelty of Akerman’s film was nevertheless immediately recognizable to a new generation of feminist film scholars, who were, in that same mid-1970s moment, taking up psychoanalytic models to theorize relations between femininity and its cinematic representation. Much of this work took Jeanne Dielman as a key text, reading its sustained attentiveness to the grindingly real time of quotidian female domestic routine as a more general critique of the social marginalization of Western women. Yet the initial feminist reception of Akerman’s film hinged ambivalently on Jeanne Dielman’s representation of the temporalities of a female everyday. The feminist film critics who wrote about Jeanne Dielman often emphasized the interventionist force of Akerman’s lengthily held shots of culturally insignificant housework activities, as if subscribing to a folk-Bazinian faith in the aesthetic value of the deep-focus long take. As Jagose will argue with reference to key scenes as well as material aspects of the film’s production, however, this feminist championing of Akerman’s film style enabled a covert subscription to a different order of temporality, endorsing a sense of lived time animated by the generational divide between second-wave feminism and the women it succeeded.
Annamarie Jagose is a professor in the School of Letters, Art and Media at the University of Sydney. Internationally known as a scholar in feminist studies, lesbian/gay studies, and queer theory, she has published four monographs: Orgasmology (2013); Inconsequence: Lesbian Representation and the Logic of Sexual Sequence (2002); Introduction to Queer Theory (1998), and Lesbian Utopics (1994). She co-edited the Routledge Queer Studies Reader (2013) with Donald E. Hall. She has previously held research fellowships at Johns Hopkins University, New York University, Northwestern University, and the University of Manchester. From 2003-2011, she co-edited the leading humanities sexuality studies journal GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies with Ann Cvetkovich. Jagose is an editorial board member of a number of international journals in gender studies and sexuality studies. She is also an award-winning novelist.
The lecture is part of the ICI Lecture Series ERRANS. The English verb ‘to err’ has largely lost its positive connotations. It no longer invokes wandering, rambling, or roaming, and is now understood negatively in relation to a prescribed path or goal. To be sure, errors are acknowledged to play an important role in the pursuit of knowledge and happiness, but usually only to the extent that their recognition allows for their elimination, correction, and avoidance. Recognizing that a critique of ideals of productivity, success, goal-orientation, and determination is necessarily paradoxical, the lecture series takes the shifting meanings of ‘erring’ – connoting the violation of norms as well as the activity of wandering – as a prompt to explore the critical potentials and risks of embracing error, randomness, failure, and non-teleological temporalities, and to do so across different disciplines and discourses.
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