Showing and Telling

  • You can hold a mimetic theory of the novel if you believe the narrational methods of fiction to resemble those of drama, and you can hold a diegetic theory of painting if you posit visual spectacle to be analogous to linguistic transmission. Bordwell.

This remark, from David Bordwell’s Narration in the Fiction Film (Routledge 1986, page 3) is split in two–and each tweet has, coincidentally, EXACTLY the same number of characters! But that’s not why you called.

The point Bordwell makes is that the novel can be thought of as an example of showing something (it can be mimetic), as if the novelist is putting on a play, while a painting might be thought of as an example of telling (diegetic), if you think of the painting itself as the “tale” the painter is telling.

More typically, of course, we think the other way around: novels tell us something and paintings show us something. Bordwell’s  reminder alerts us to alternative perspectives for interpretation. (Originally posted December 30, 2011)

Earliest Tweets

Since I’ve removed the “Of Tweets” menu tab, I’ve included below some of my earliest tweets and their sources. Unlike some of the later ones, I didn’t comment on these quotations, but they’re still provocative, so here they are, along with citations. (Originally posted in 2011)

  • “The frame is that perceptual limit or boundary which divides what is represented from what is not represented, with respect to (from) an origin.” Branigan.

My tweet was silently edited and missing its final period. Very sorry for that, won’t happen again. Above is the correct version, from Edward Branigan, Point of View in the Cinema: A Theory of Narration and Subjectivity in Classical Film. New York: Mouton, 1984. 157.

  • “The difficulty of distinguishing conscious from unconscious is at its most obscure when the issue is one of language.” Derrida.

From Jacques Derrida, “The Supplement of Copula: Philosophy before Linguistics” (180). Margins of Philosophy. Trans. Alan Bass. Chicago: U Chicago P, 1982. 175-205. originally published in Langages, 24 Dec. 1971.

  • “Before the invention of silent reading, writing aimed at the production of a voice, not at a representation of it.” Jesper Svenbro.

This is from Svenbro’s chapter, “Archaic and Classical Greece: The Invention of Silent Reading,” in the volume, A History of Reading in the West, edited by Guglielmo Cavallo and Roger Chartrier. Trans. Lydia G. Cochrane. Amherst: U Massachusetts P, 1999. 37-63.