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The Face on the Screen
Questions of Death, Recognition and Public Memory
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ISBN 9781841500843
Paperback 128 pages

Published December 2003
Imprint: Intellect
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Chapter Titles     |      Reviews     |      Comments

There was a time is screen culture when the facial close-up was a spectacular and mysterious image…

The constant bombardment of the super-enlarged, computer-enhanced faces of advertising, the endless 'talking heads' of television and the ever-changing array of film stars' faces have reduced the face to a banal image, while the dream of early film theorists that the 'giant severed heads' of the screen could reveal 'the soul of man' to the masses is long since dead. And yet the end of this dream opens up the possibility for a different view of the face on the screen. The aim of the book is to seize this opportunity to rethink the facial close-up in terms other than subjectivity and identity by shifting the focus to questions of death and recognition.

In doing so, the book proposes a dialectical reversal or about-face. It suggests that we focus our attention on the places in contemporary media where the face becomes unrecognisable, for it is here that the facial close-up expresses the powers of death. Using Walter Benjamin's theory of the dialectical image as a critical tool, the book provides detailed studies of a wide range of media spectacles of faces becoming unrecognisable. It shows how the mode of recognition enabled by these faces is a shock experience that can open our eyes to the underside of the mask of self - the unrecognisable mortal face of self we spend our lives trying not to see. Turning on itself, so to speak, the face exposes the fragile relationship between social recognition and facial recognizability in the images-cultures of contemporary media.

Chapter titles
Chapter 1: 'Becoming Unrecognisable'
Page 9
Chapter 2: Reading the Face'
Page 25
Chapter 3: 'Severed Head: Dennis Potter's Bid For Immortality'
Page 41
Chapter 4: '"Mabo": Name Without a Face'
Page 57
Chapter 5: 'The Face of Diana'
Page 75
Chapter 6: 'Remebering the Dead: Faces of Ground Zero'
Page 85
Chapter 7: 'First Sight: Blindness, Cinema and Unrequited Love'
Page 97
Reviews
'A surprising and unusual book in its choice of critical object. It invites the reader to a discussion that is not often found in recent media writings: a discussion of the cross-reference between the face, death and recognition in the screen production..."The Face on the Screen" leaves readers with the haunting awareness that they have gained a new understanding of both modern media strategies and spectatorship. Davis's careful and sensitive analysis of various media events and personalities is at the same time an inquiry into the construction of meaning. ' – Violetta Petrova, Screening the Past

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