Professor Jennifer Barker Plenary Lecture at Berlin Conference
Professor Jennifer Barker gave a plenary lecture on Todd Haynes’s Carol at a July 2016 conference in Berlin on “Metaphor in the Arts, in Media and Communication.” Freie University’s Cinepoetics/Center for Advanced Film Studies sponsored the 11th conference of the Association for Researching and Applying Metaphor (RaAM) as part of the center’s year-long research project, “Metaphor: Film images, Cinematic Thinking, and Cognition.” Four invited plenaries addressed a media aesthetics of metaphor from the perspective of cognitive semiotics, philosophy, film studies, and architecture.
Barker pointed out that, while romantic melodrama often depicts romance as a kind of electric charge, the physics and optics of eros are literal and material in Haynes’s film, conveyed through the mise en scène. Passion doesn’t just flare between the two main characters (played by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara) but also leaps between bodies and objects and back again, conducted through a series of precise micro-gestures performed by the two women as they engage with these objects — trains, cars, telephones, record players, radios, and (most importantly) a camera. In Haynes’s and screenwriter Phyllis Nagy’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 source novel, the main character is no longer a set designer but a photographer, which Barker takes as a clue to the importance of time and technology to the film’s oblique approach to the romance genre.
Barker delivered a version of this paper in Düsseldorf, also in July, as part of the lecture series “Affect and Authority: Things That Move Us,” presented by the Heinreich Heine University’s Institute for Media and Culture.
A version of the paper appears in The Cine-Files, an online journal devoted to the “passionate analysis” of moving images.