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Traumatic Encounters in Italian Film
Locating the Cinematic Unconscious
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ISBN 9781841501406
Hardback 200 pages
230 x 174mm
Published January 2006
Imprint: Intellect
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Books by Fabio Vighi
Books in Film Studies
Chapter Titles     |      Reviews     |      Comments

Traumatic Encounters addresses the question of the relationship between psychoanalysis and film in a thoroughly original way, bringing together Lacanian theory and Italian cinema as a means to unravel the deepest kernel of repressed knowledge around which film narratives are constructed.

The primary theoretical reference of the book is the Real, the most under-represented of the three Lacanian categories (Symbolic, Imaginary and Real), which designates the traumatic dimension of reality that cannot be integrated in the order of language and communication. Exploring the relationship between film and its unconscious underside, the author argues that only by locating the elusive “traces of the cinematic Real” can a given film narrative be reconstructed in its entirety. Like the Lacanian subject, film here appears as fundamentally split between a traumatic dimension beyond signification (the Real), and awareness of its fragile symbolic status.

Always stylistically innovative, thematically defiant and driven by a strong political agenda, Italian cinema lends itself particularly well to a critical investigation aimed at radicalising the impact of psychoanalysis on film. In doing exactly that, the book deliberately avoids the standard cultural and historical approaches to film. Instead, it moves freely amongst some of the most widely celebrated – as well as lesser-known – Italian films of the post-war period, discussing the ways in which they tackle such themes as desire, fantasy, sexuality, violence and the law, to mention but a few. The main focus is on the work of those directors who most effectively engage with the divisive nature of the moving image: Antonioni, Pasolini and Rossellini. In addition, the book provides ample and insightful references to films by Visconti, Bertolucci, Bellocchio, Moretti, Petri, Fellini, Ferreri, and many more.

Chapter titles
Part One: Figurations of the Real: locating the unconscious
Chapter 1: 'Editing as Real, or death-drive in film theory'
Chapter 2: 'Pasolini as a reader of Hegel'
Chapter 3: 'The minimal gap between Othello's two heads'
Chapter 4: 'Suturing void'
Chapter 5: 'Blow-up: about nothing, with precision'
Chapter 6: 'A theorem on the non-existence of Terence Stamp'
Chapter 7: 'The desert and the park'
Chapter 8: 'Infinite repetitions of the same thing'
Chapter 9: 'On neo-realism: excursus 1'
Part Two: Enjoying the Real: unconsicous strategies of subversion
Chapter 10: 'The vraie femme's redemptive violence'
Chapter 11: 'From the virtual revolutionary to the revolutionary virtual'
Chapter 12: 'Masochism and the law'
Chapter 13: 'Drive unbound'
Chapter 14: 'Kafkaesque encounters in the law'
Chapter 15: 'Passionate attachments in the torture room'
Chapter 16: 'On neo-realism: excursus 2'
Part Three: Adventures in the Real of sexual difference
Chapter 17: 'Negotiating the impossible'
Chaper 18: 'The Lady who wasn't there'
Chapter 19: 'Of love letters and undelivered messages'
Chapter 20: 'Le Femme n'existe pas!'
Chapter 21: 'Mimesis and sublimation'
Chapter 22: 'War of the sexes'
Chapter 23: 'The abyss of feminine sexuality: unconscious figurations unlimited'
Part Four: The postmodern Real: notes on the return of Oedipus
Chapter 24: 'La stanza del figlio: radicalising neurosis with Nanni Moretti'
Chapter 25: 'L'ora di religione: gazing backwards with Marco Bellocchio'
Chapter 26: 'I centi passi: resuscitating Oedipus with Marco Tullio Giordana'
'This is an intriguing and ultimately illuminating exploration of both Lacanian-Žižek theory and an application of it some of the most significant Italian films of the post-war period. ' – Gino Moliterno, The Australian National University

'Vighi's book brings some fresh air to the subject...[of post-war Italian cinema] Deeply stimulating, this work may pave the way for a new critical perspective on the subject matter.' – Luana Ciavola, University of Melbourne

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