The Techne of Giving: Cinema and the Generous Form of Life

The Techne of Giving: Cinema and the Generous Form of Life

The Techne of Giving: Cinema and the Generous Form of Life

The Techne of Giving: Cinema and the Generous Form of Life

Synopsis

In a neoliberal milieu of charitable gift-giving, nearly everything given and received becomes the subject of a calculus. Is there another way to conceive of generosity? What would giving and receiving without gifts look like? Bringing political philosophy together with classical Italian cinema, Timothy Campbell opens up the possibility of a generous form of life irreducible to contemporary biopower.

Excerpt

This book began as a reflection on the possible relation between Italian cinema and contemporary reflections on biopolitics. Sensing a connection, I wondered if a number of classic Italian films might tell us something about contemporary life in both its political and less political forms. Surely, I thought, if philosophical genealogies of biopolitics were possible, then just as surely, a reading of biopolitics and cinema was there for the taking as well.

After some time, my perspective on cinema and biopolitics changed. I concluded that if films such as Luchino Visconti’s The Earth Trembles, Roberto Rossellini’s Germany Year Zero, and Michelangelo Antonioni’s Eclipse were indeed reflections on the relation of (bio)power to life, then they were also ethical enterprises. These films continually show us how important it is to extend the meaning of holding, be it of ourselves, our ideas, or each other. Yes, these directors visualize the political conditions of their time, and yes, for some of that time, it makes sense to frame those conditions biopolitically. I came to understand, however, that just as important is noting how Visconti, Rossellini, and Antonioni model modes of spectatorship that, when taken together, constitute a heretofore ignored ethical horizon for postwar Italian cinema, that if I was going to write about a number of films from Italy that I love, I would have to propose something resembling an ethic of grips: an ethic of how we hold and how we let go. My hunch was that the commonalities among the films could be summed up in a series of questions. What is the relation of gratitude to fear in the films? How does the holding of one’s body, self, or objects in and outside the frame allow occasions for reciprocity to become visible? And . . .

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