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Workshop by Tom Mitchell (University of Chicago): "Seeing Through Madness: Insanity, Media and Visual Culture"

Jun 15, 2018 09:30 am to 12:30 pm

This interactive lecture series"Recalibrating Culture – Reenvisioning the (Trans-)Cultural – C’est quoi la (trans-)culture?" introduces key players from various disciplines and fields engaged in reenvisioning a new phenomenology of (trans-)culture from different angles. Our goal is to reconsider the (trans-)cultural in response to post-culturalist, neo-naturalist, neo-materialist, post-humanist, techno-scientist and other such approaches, all of which offer new perspectives on anthropocentrism with regard to what only appears as self-evident binaries: culture and nature, modernity and tradition, the West and the rest….. 

Seeing Through Madness: Insanity, Media and Visual Culture

This lecture aims to explore the concept of madness as a transcultural critical framework for understanding much of what passes for “normal” individual and collective human behavior. Drawn from the introduction to my book in progress by the same title, the lecture asks three questions:  1) why is “madness” the right word, rather than clinical terms such as mental illness or insanity? 2) what specific insights into madness are provided by an emphasis on its visual, theatrical, cinematic, and spectacular manifestations? 3) what is the relation between individual and collective forms of madness, particularly in phenomena such as the “rational” forms of mental disorder involving the state or the sovereign?

The project is grounded, but not bounded, by twenty years of personal experience with the schizophrenia of my son, Gabriel Mitchell. Gabriel was a filmmaker whose ambition was to make an encyclopedic film on the model of Godard’s Histoire du Cinema. My assignment was to provide the pre-production image archive or “Bilderatlas” of madness that would be employed by the film, a long-standing practice in the film industry.  This lecture will not attempt to survey that image atlas, but to explore the fundamental questions that underly it.

Since this is an interactive format, and our goal is to practice reading-in-conjunction, readings for this talk are available for your perusal here: https://heibox.uni-heidelberg.de/d/f247ad0054/. Should any of the participants have materials from their own area of specialization or expertise that fit the topic at hand, they are welcome to bring them to the discussion.

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