Skip Navigation

Frame by Frame

Posts Tagged ‘Criticism’

Herbert Marcuse on The Information Society

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

I’ve been reading Herbert Marcuse’s 1964 classic One-Dimensional Man again; more relevant today than ever.

“In the most advanced areas of this civilization, the social controls have been introjected to the point where even individual protest is affected at its roots. The intellectual and emotional refusal ‘to go along’ appears neurotic and impotent. This is the socio-psychological aspect of the political event that marks the contemporary period: the passing of the historical forces which, at the preceding stage of industrial society, seemed to represent the possibility of new forms of existence. But the term ‘introjection’ perhaps no longer describes the way in which the individual by himself reproduces and perpetuates the external controls exercised by his society. Introjection suggests a variety of relatively spontaneous processes by which a Self (Ego) transposes the ‘outer’ into the ‘inner.’ Thus introjection implies the existence of an inner dimension distinguished from and even antagonistic to the external exigencies—an individual consciousness and an individual unconscious apart from public opinion and behavior.

The idea of ‘inner freedom’ here has its reality: it designates the private space in which man may become and remain ‘himself.’ Today this private space has been invaded and whittled down by technological reality. Mass production and mass distribution claim the entire individual, and industrial psychology has long since ceased to be confined to the factory. The manifold processes of introjection seem to be ossified in almost mechanical reactions. The result is, not adjustment but mimesis: an immediate identification of the individual with his society and, through it, with the society as a whole. This immediate, automatic identification (which may have been characteristic of primitive forms of association) reappears in high industrial civilization; its new ‘immediacy,’ however, is the product of a sophisticated, scientific management and organization.

In this process, the ‘inner’ dimension of the mind in which opposition to the status quo can take root is whittled down. The loss of this dimension, in which the power of negative thinking—the critical power of Reason—is at home, is the ideological counterpart to the very material process in which advanced industrial society silences and reconciles the opposition. The impact of progress turns Reason into submission to the facts of life, and to the dynamic capability of producing more and bigger facts of the same sort of life. The efficiency of the system blunts the individuals’ recognition that it contains no facts which do not communicate the repressive power of the whole. If the individuals find themselves in the things which shape their life, they do so, not by giving, but by accepting the law of things—not the law of physics but the law of their society.”

You can read the entire text of this absolutely essential book by clicking here.

For more free articles and videos, visit my website at wheelerwinstondixon.com

Robert Heide on the Death of A Great Newspaper – The Village Voice

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Click here to read Bob’s full story in WestView News on this deeply troubling event.

The Village Voice used to be the arts newspaper in New York. It had the best film criticism – Andrew Sarris, Jonas Mekas, Jim Hoberman, Amy Taubin and many others all wrote for The Voice. It had the best critics in dance, theater, literature, and the liveliest coverage of the New York City scene in general. It was, indeed, essential reading. You couldn’t really say you were “up” on the arts in the city without it.

Then, The Voice went “free,” when it used to be sold on newsstands, and could thus have some independence from advertisers, which was the beginning of the end, and then it was sold to a national conglomerate that runs supposedly “alternative” newspapers, and then management started firing people, thinking they could just plug in this or that person and the quality would be the same, but it isn’t.

This leads to cultural degradation; as Ian McEwan, the distinguished British author of such novels as Atonement and Amsterdam, said of criticism from people who clearly have no idea what they’re talking about: “Reviewing takes expertise, wisdom and judgment. I am not much fond of the notion that anyone’s view is as good as anyone else’s.” This is now in short supply at The Voice, which has gone from being an essential part of city life to a throwaway piece of trash that isn’t fit for wrapping fish.

But the management won’t care; as long as they can sell ad space, and hire a few freelancers to write some meager editorial content, they’ll be content. They don’t want care about running a newspaper; they just want a vehicle for their advertisers. The demise of a great newspaper is always a sad event; in the case of The Voice, there is nothing that even come close to replacing it for those who read it, and for those whose wit and intelligence graced its pages for so many years.

This is the end of The Village Voice, and I am sorry to see it go; its coverage is irreplaceable.

Some Thoughts from Flannery O’Connor

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

Click here, or on the image above, for more information on Flannery O’Connor.

“Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to never was there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it.”

“Art never responds to the wish to make it democratic; it is not for everybody; it is only for those who are willing to undergo the effort needed to understand it.”

― Flannery O’Connor, Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose

Ian McEwan on Fanboy Culture

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

Ian McEwan, the distinguished British author of such novels as Atonement and Amsterdam, had this to say recently about online criticism from people who clearly have no idea what they’re talking about:

“I don’t have much time for the kind of [Internet] site where readers do all the reviewing. Reviewing takes expertise, wisdom and judgment. I am not much fond of the notion that anyone’s view is as good as anyone else’s.”

Richard Poirier on the Value of Difficulty

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Richard Poirier in the 1970s

Richard Poirier, who was a strong influence on my early work as a critic — and continues to be so to this day — always argued for the difficulty of reading, or apprehending any work of real quality. As Alexander Star put it, in an appreciation of Poirier’s life in The New York Times,

“Mr. Poirier’s most important contribution came in his criticism, which tried to convey why the act of reading is — and should be — so difficult. The most powerful works of literature, he insisted, offer “a fairly direct access to pleasure” but become “on longer acquaintance, rather strange and imponderable.” Even as readers try to pin down what a writer means, the best authors try to elude them, using all the resources of sound, rhythm and syntax to defeat any straightforward account of what they are doing.

This approach to literature is as resonant today as ever. Mr. Poirier’s criticism poses a challenge to literary professionals who bemoan that Americans are spending less time with the established classics as well as to Internet enthusiasts who boast that the Web will provide immediate access not only to the best that has been thought and said but to everything else. He reminds us that we should never be complacent about the glories of the canon, which is made up of texts as frustrating and unfinished as ourselves. And he suggests that linking and hyperlinking are no substitute for a sustained encounter with the great writers of the past, who were themselves both tormented and thrilled by ‘what words were doing to them and what they might do in return.’”

Poirier, as Star reminds us, famously compared The Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band to the work of Alexander Pope, and he also was instrumental in creating the first film studies classes at Rutgers University in the mid 1960s, where I cut my teeth as a lecturer and writer. He also made sure that people like Susan Sontag came in to do guest lectures, and insisted on quality in every aspect of his work, and in the work of others. In short, he was a Renaissance man, but at the same time, he deplored dilletantism; whatever one did, one had to master. For as Jean Cocteau put it, “A work of art should also be ‘an object difficult to pick up’. The less it’s understood, the slower it opens its petals, the later it will fade.”

John O’ Hara on Criticism

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

John O’Hara at work in his study in Connecticut, 1960s

John O’ Hara was a short story writer and novelist; I think he’s generally much better as a creator of short stories than novels. His first novel, Appointment in Samarra (1934) is one of his finest sustained pieces; but I really love his short stories, which I’ve read countless times, and which O’Hara collected in a number of volumes after they were first published in The New Yorker. And, of course, many of his novels were made into films, most notably Daniel Mann’s version of O’Hara’s novel BUtterfield 8 (1960).

But I’m criticizing!

And here’s what O’Hara had to say on that:

“The only reply to the critics is, curiously, the same reply to the hostile and to the friendly. It is work. Do anything – a play, a short story, another novel – but be doing something. I am not so sure that amor vincit omnia, but work keeps us going. It is a reply and an answer.”

– John O’Hara in a letter to John Hersey, January 21, 1965.

About the Author

Wheeler Winston Dixon

Wheeler Winston Dixon, Ryan Professor of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is an internationally recognized scholar and writer of film history, theory and criticism. He is the author of numerous books and more than 70 articles on film and appears regularly in national media outlets discussing film and culture trends. Frame by Frame is a collection of his thoughts on a number of those topics. To contact Prof. Dixon for an interview, reach him at 402.472.6064 or wdixon1@unl.edu.

RSS Frame By Frame Videos

  • War Movies
    UNL Film Studies professor Wheeler Winston Dixon at one of the earliestand most enduring film genres, the war movie. […]
  • Frame By Frame - Hollywood Composers
    UNL Film Studies professor Wheeler Winston Dixon highlights the most prolific Hollywood film composers. […]

In The National News

National media outlets featured and cited Wheeler Winston Dixon on a number of topics in the past month. Find out more on the website http://newsroom.unl.edu/inthenews/