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Representation by millimetres.


SOMEWHERE BETWEEN THE basal ganglia and the neocortex, a gap occurred in those organic blocs which together form the machinery that constitute the infrastructure of the mind. Whatever outside events might have prompted this mutation, prodded us an inch or two towards apperception, the mental machine now had a certain amount of play built into it. And inside that metaphoric gap, we learned how to bilocate. We learned how to be both here and there, him and her, yes and no, yin and yang. We learned how to represent.

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We see our facility in Palaeolithic cave paintings, but lots of candidates keep popping up for much earlier representations than those. We assume that we naturally, as a species, have taken to this prosthetic device of self-extension and self-abolition. But why? Why should we have wanted to turn a stone into a woman? Why turn a cave wall into a gallery of aurochs? What’s to be gained, in evolutionary terms? We theorize away about this, but we don’t know anything for certain. We are the only creatures to do it, but then we are the only creatures to live inside a linguistic plenitude that situates us, and provides a home for our representations.

There are still a few people in the world who fear another person possessing them through possessing their representation. They will flee from someone taking their photograph. We can see traces here of the genealogy of black magic. If I damage your representation, I damage you. Few of us would like to think of a person we have wronged sitting in a roomful of images of ourselves, distressing them one by one. Something unheimlich stirs, and we feel like protecting ourselves against unknown forces.

Does the stone woman in my pocket mean I have preternatural control over the actual woman? Experience would presumably disprove this quickly enough (though superstition easily holds its own against experience). But notions of the sort persist. Norman Mailer went through a phase of believing that if he stared hard enough at a woman, he could impregnate her. Prophylactic indifference on her various parts seems to have done the trick, finally, and even Norman had to acknowledge the gallery of empty wombs staring back at him. The animals on the cave walls, it has been speculated, were gathered back inside the potent ambit of the hunters by their repeated images underground. Maybe. Or perhaps the images were a form of restitution, a kind of apology to the creatures for the outrage of their slaughter. Maybe. Or maybe they were simply an early example of our addiction to representation. When we are not killing the aurochs, we paint them. When we have finished slaughtering the narwhal, we carve its own features upon its tusk. When Picasso had finished painting his muses undressed, he often proceeded to paint them weeping. Representation offers curious symmetries. That crucial gap in our mental lives that permitted representation to happen meant that we were not, at that moment anyway, on the look-out for predators or prey. We had a blessed moment of distraction. Walter Benjamin believed that the cinema was the institutionalised temple of distraction in the modern world. He believed it had revolutionary potential.

A half-century after photography, which had frozen the world in uncanny detail, stopping time in the process, cinema came along to start the images moving again. Time inside a film is not ‘real time’. The time of the movie together with its plot is called in film studies diegesis  There had already been devices for showing us images moving: the zoetrope, the thaumatrope. But cinema soon killed off its rivals. The disappearance of the solidity of flesh, as it contracted to celluloid depth, was compensated by other means. The intimacy of the close-up. And the orchestrated wonders of the sound-track. Even in silent movies the films were hardly ever screened without musical accompaniment. The local pianist would point towards crescendos, and lull us through the intimate passages of romance. Pianos can be thunderous and lyrical, with only a few seconds between the two.

Technology dictates the potency of representation. Walter Benjamin studied this in detail in the Paris of the nineteenth century. The physiognomy of the city was shown to shape invisibly the physiognomy of the verse. Arcades and department stores extended the realm of flânerie, so did Baudelaire’s poems. Technology was having its endlessly accruing effect. So, sound movies followed the silent variety, and colour followed black-and-white. The only sense that is left alone in a cinema is the haptic and the olfactory: the smellies never caught on, though the feelies had a fictional debut. And we might note the curious reversion that takes us back to those cave walls. When the audience is seated, the doors closed, the lights switched off, the audience sits in silence and gazes in wonder at images projected on a wall, occult noises proliferating all around them. For a long time, we were surrounded by the movies. They constituted a wall of representation so all-enveloping that it was invisible, like water to a fish. It wasn’t until I got to university that I started to understand that films were representations. What they are representations of, though, is a seriously tricky question,

John Ford made Stagecoach in 1939. It was a western. Everyone knew what one of those was. Good guys in big hats fought bad ones in feathers. Lots of guns. You weren’t going to lose any money betting on the outcome. In this film (as in virtually all examples of the genre) the Indians are unproblematical. They do not invade the interiority of the film, which is fashioned out of the lives of white American men and women, one of whom is an escaped prisoner and the other a professional whore. But these are intimate and transparent identities; identities that we can share. The Indians are transparent too but exterior, without cultural complexity; their existence is sinister, representing a threat, against which all the others can identify themselves and cohere. We are not likely to find out much regarding their psychology. Their psychology is to kill the white man and despoil his womenfolk.

It took years before Ford reviewed the ideology implanted in his head, out of which he had made Stagecoach. When the darkness of uncertainty and doubt settled over the film-maker’s vision in 1956, when he started to consider the Amerindians under the US imperium, the same way he had always viewed the Irish under the British imperium, he made a magnificent and profoundly troubling film. The Searchers cannot enter the minds or culture of the Indians, but it at least permits itself to discover that they are an alien species, and have a life and culture of their own.

Ethan (played by John Wayne) comes to understand that when he sets foot on an alien culture’s ground, he is bearing not a light, but a gun. The invisible liquid walls of ideology have suddenly frozen, and become visible. His neiece (played by Natalie Wood), who has gone native, and has indeed been possessed by Indians, is not killed – as she almost was – but taken home instead. Home could never be the same again. The western increased its moral depth overnight. The film was not the greatest hit, though as John Wayne pointed out: ‘I got paid.’ In almost every shot in the film we see his face creased with troublesome and increasingly difficult thoughts.

So if Stagecoach is a representation of one world, The Searchers is a representation of another, a world grown heavier and more complex with the weight of history, and history’s confusions and perplexities. It is still set in Monument Valley, but transparency is no longer guaranteed. Films represent inhabited worlds. Each one is a representational instantiation of a form of life. That is how we have come to study them, even how some of them have come to understand themselves. Films do leak. The life on screen tumbles over into the actual life of the protagonists. Hitchcock went too far with live birds that wanted to rip Tippi Hedren’s face off. The Birds had to close its production down for two weeks. It had never happened before. When Robert de Niro played Jake La Motta in Raging Bull, he put on so much weight that he walked out of the film a different man to the one who had entered. It is possible that the cancer that killed Andrei Tarkovsky was acquired while filming The Stalker. The deserted landscape he needed for his representation of the Zone was supplied by a disused chemical plant. He was there in close proximity and he was there a long time. The vast amount of vodka he drank could not cancel the chemical deposits shifting around him in the air.

But this wasn’t the true psychological effect of film. That simply cannot be measured. An uncounted number of women went home after seeing North by North West in the cinema and, on entering the tunnel of their bedrooms that night, made love to Cary Grant, even though he was thousands of miles away. Aby Warburg, on first seeing cinema with sound, expressed his foreboding that this was too much. To have so many senses not merely engaged but remorselessly pounded by electronic stimuli abolished the space where criticism and judgment were meant to take place. When I watch a film I largely abandon my critical faculties (that’s part of the pleasure to be had) and go through what Coleridge called ‘the willing suspension of disbelief’. I have to become critical later, afterwards, during a second viewing, when I’m no longer so entranced.

When film represents, the representation is a complicated business. These are industrial productions, involving large numbers of people and large amounts of money. Let us put the matter plainly. The Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now are both films ‘about’ Vietnam. Do their representations of Vietnam correspond? Both films appear to agree on one thing: the intervention in Vietnam amounted to a suicide mission for the Western psyche. To invade another country and try to occupy another culture is a form of Russian Roulette. This is the device actually employed in The Deer Hunter. In Apocalypse Now the intimate circle, the inside group that we can understand, is the one on the boat, making its way towards Cambodia, where the errant Captain Kurtz has gone AWOL, and has formed a community of worshipful disciples around him. He has detached himself from the American War Effort because he can no longer tolerate its dishonesty. The pious prattle of war officialise does not correspond at all with the reality of human beings blown to bits by massive aerial bombardment. This was the era that gave us the phrase ‘collateral damage’. That meant annihilating people when you weren’t even aiming at them. This process of the universal word-mangle goes on unceasingly. The phrase ‘world-beating’ in the UK now means simply: doesn’t work.

Neither film demonstrates any real interest in the life of the Vietnamese, any more than The Searchers demonstrated any real interest in the life of the American Indians. The Vietnamese or the Indians are the locus, geographical and psychological, of menace. These are the folks we tangle with at our peril. Confronting them, we might discover something about ourselves. Be wary about going abroad in order to go to war, might be a promising start. When Willard finally emerges from the commune of death at the end of Apocalypse Now, we can be sure of only one thing: he’ll never go on another mission. The Christopher Walken figure in The Deer Hunter blows his own brains out after already surviving the gamble once, as if to declare finis to the war. Which had ended years before.

Both these films are relatively orthodox in their ‘realist’ procedures. They don’t present us with any visual, or diegetic, problems. We can watch them straightforwardly. Unlike, say, Pulp Fiction, where the signifier, in the form of the film, does not make chronological sense. The film makes sense, but the chronology doesn’t. Tarantino is teasing us with cinema’s ability to compel attention, despite rational inconsistencies.

If the viewer cannot immediately comprehend a film, he is likely to cry ‘Incompetence’. And he could well be right. But the modernist director is likely to suggest that the viewer needs to re-educate his sensibilities, so that he does not expect any of the easy fare which arrives pre-digested. So that the expected diegesis is not necessarily the exemplary one. An interviewer once said, somewhat exasperatedly, to Jean-Luc Godard: ‘But M. Godard, do you not think a film should have a beginning, a middle and an end?’ To which Godard in all his grandeur replied: ‘Certainly. But not necessarily in that order.’ There is a curious echo here of Morecambe and Wise, when Eric mangles Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor, and André Previn rebukes him: ‘But you are playing all the wrong notes.’ Eric replies, with some dignity: ‘No sunshine, I’m playing all the right notes. Not necessarily in the right order, I grant you.’ He does have a point, as did Thelonious Monk when he replied to a radio talk-in in Chicago. Someone had accused him of playing wrong notes. Monk was unapologetic: ‘There are no wrong notes on a piano keyboard.’ Pulp Fiction presents us with a film where we watch Vincent die, and then see him alive at the end. At the end of the film, that is; at the end of the actual chronology, he is dead. Within the diegesis of the film he survives. At the end of the action, he has outlived himself.

Doctor Strangelove is a film entangled in history; its representations are deliberately contaminated with contemporary events. Its release was delayed because of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Somehow a hysterical satire on the end of the world, brought about by Cold War insanity, didn’t seem the right moment. The most evident instance of a breach in realistic convention is when Slim Pickens flies an atomic bomb to its Russian target, as though it were a rodeo horse. But the far more subtle breach of convention was one of the three parts played by Peter Sellers. As Doctor Strangelove he is an early and superlative version of bionic man. Confined to his wheelchair, which he deploys like a dodgem car, Strangelove is crippled. His most curious attribute is his right arm, which remains faithful to the Nazi cause, even though the rest of Strangelove has apostasized and gone over to the Americans. The right arm alternates between a Hitlerite salute and trying to throttle the traitor to whom it is still organically attached.

Kubrick was famed for his meticulous research. This was his way of bringing verisimilitude to his films. With his set designer Ken Adam he made the inside of the B-52 so realistic that he alarmed the American Air Force, who wanted to know where these fellows had acquired such detailed information about a current warplane. Flight magazines, Adam replied. He knew his stuff. He had been a Polish pilot in the war. So vivid was the representation of Strategic Air Command in the movie that some said it never again commanded complete confidence from anyone. It seems to have died away quietly by the end of the decade. The world portrayed here is insane, but the insanity is dangerously close to the actuality being enacted every day at the height of the Cold War. In its farcical manoeuvres, it is weirdly realistic.

Kubrick had started the film from a novel by Peter George, Red Alert. The book was not funny. The problem Kubrick had was that the details of proposed nuclear warfare he was looking at were so patently demented that it was hard to recount them with a straight face. Kubrick could contrive a straight cinematic face to confront military enormities, as he had shown so exuberantly in Paths of Glory. But this felt different. This was pushing him towards humour of an absurdist nature. The contemporary world of military strategy and nuclear plans appeared so absurdist in nature that only absurdism in cinematic form could bring about the required verisimilitude. Terry Southern stepped in while Peter George stepped aside.

Kubrick was aware that humankind enjoys the spectacle of its own utter annihilation. It doesn’t want to partake in it, but it enjoys the spectacle nonetheless.

Kubrick was aware that humankind enjoys the spectacle of its own utter annihilation. It doesn’t want to partake in it, but it enjoys the spectacle nonetheless. Hence our continuing fascination with the Book of Revelation, a work that has remarkably little to do with the teachings of Jesus, and which is excluded from the Eastern canon as a result. The Doomsday Machine is a splendid creation, because of its inescapability. Once a nuclear bomb lands on enemy territory, the world goes up. No diplomacy is possible. Any retaliation only makes everything even worse. The filmmaker had always regarded everything to do with the arms race and the development of nuclear weapons as beyond reason. So the representative world he created cinematically was beyond reason too. Except that a great deal of reasoning was going on in it. G. K. Chesterton once remarked that the phrase ‘He has lost his reason’ is often the precise opposite of the truth. He has lost human affection, any sense of balance, any residue of charity or compassion, but his reason continues. Whirring away in a vacuum. And that is Dr Strangelove.

It is rarely that we lack sympathy for all of the characters in a film. The techniques of film-making lure us into sympathy for at least one. By the angle of the shots, the close-ups, the voice-overs. These beguile us into a fatal camaraderie with a protagonist, even though he might be utterly reprehensible. Alex in Clockwork Orange is a murderous thug, for whom women are merely copulation machines. And yet our sympathies move towards him when he starts being persecuted and bullied by the powers that be. When, in The Godfather, Michael Corleone has to kill the Captain and the Turk, we are egging him on in the suspenseful scene, while the music thrums underneath the action, instructing us to sympathise even more. If we could extract ourselves momentarily from the relentless diegetic momentum, we might ask these questions. Do we really want to give our support to a Mafia killing, even if the victims are no better than they should be? Have we been recruited so easily? Earlier in the action, Michael’s father Vito muses, ‘We’re not murderers. Whatever this undertaker says.’ If realism had any real purchase here, realism beyond the film’s verisimilitude, we would collectively stand up and close the cinema down there and then. If the leading Mafia family in post-war New York are not murderers, then what precisely are they? You only get to be a leading New York Mafia family by murder and intimidation. That’s a necessary part of your CV.

Cinema has always been in love with villains, as prose fiction cannot thrive without misfortune. We are not looking to be told tales of happy, healthy, morally outstanding characters. And yet the most compelling figures of all are simultaneously villainous and loveable. We are on Michael Corleone’s side as he battles his way to the top in Part One. In Part Two, things are different. We witness Michael’s moral corruption, his alienation from his wife, his order to kill his own brother. The end of that film is a perfectly balanced despair. So much wealth. So much power. No happiness at all. And then in Part Three, cinema becomes what it can never afford to be: operatic. It happens in false steps sometimes in otherwise powerful films: the dagger sequence in Mel Gibson’s Macbeth; the moment just before the end of part one of Kenneth Branagh’s brilliant Hamlet, when he addresses the cosmos in splendid Technicolor. But Part Three of The Godfather is operatic throughout. This is a radical failure of verisimilitude. This subverts the genre in precisely the wrong way. Coppola had temporarily lost his cinematic compass.

In the shooting scene in The Godfather, between Michael, the Captain and the Turk, we stare at the two adversaries through Michael’s eyes. In other words, the camera becomes Michael, and we inhabit that camera. The lens transmutes into our own optical code, and that is simultaneous with the code of seeing that is Michael. We have morphed into the cinematic representation; merged with the protagonist. In Citizen Kane, the wide-angle deep-focus shots present the world as Kane sees it. There is a visual melodrama to the screening which corresponds to the incalculable melodrama of Kane’s ego. The caverns measureless to man of his conceptions end in Xanadu, a dark dream terminus on a hill. Another poet’s lines come to mind: ‘I must lie down where all the ladders start/In the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart.’ And when Kane lies down there, with no further distractions, over in the corner he sees Rosebud, his sledge from childhood days. It will be burned shortly afterwards, in the bonfire of vanities that awaits us all.

Representation in film is as much a matter of mise-en-scène and lighting as of the actor’s persona and actions before the camera. In Ford’s Young Mr Lincoln, for example, the mode chosen is close to documentary; the action is provided not by bullets but by seriously intellectual talk. Much of the action is set in a courtroom, and the camera work tends towards the static. This allows Henry Fonda (with Lincolnian face modifications) to speak slowly and clearly. Even ponderously. This is speech as thought. Much of it would be considered today ‘uncinematic’. All the courtroom scenes are well-lit. In Welles’ Touch of Evil darkness predominates. All the characters seem to be emerging from darkness or returning to it. It is a moral universe, like Macbeth, on which the sun does not shine. Compare this with High Society, and the light there never ceases. Even the dark is illuminated. Even in grief, the characters appear largely merry and bright. In Orson Welles’ The Trial, K appears beset by shadows in every scene. They are his prime antagonists.

And so the atmosphere created in a film operates as a kind of metaphysics. We intuit the ultimate modalities of this world by directorial suggestiveness; by camera angles and lighting. We could take a simple, even a brutal, example. Disney cartoon films tend to be spooked by death. The shadow of the valley never leaves them entirely. Warner Brothers cartoons, by contrast, expel death entirely. All creatures become shapeshifters in the face of annihilation. The cat is run over by a steam roller, so it peels itself up off the road and continues journeying in two dimensions. Somebody falls off a cliff. Mangled they may be, but they pick themselves up, shake themselves down, and start all over again. There is no death here; only temporary setbacks.

Chaplin in Modern Times is the representative little man eaten alive by the vast machinery of capitalism. He still comes out alive. He is our modern industrial Everyman, who was to have a later more parochial incarnation in the form of Norman Wisdom, another hard-done-by little man, this one in a crumpled flat cap, singing maudlin songs in a lachrymose manner. He is still revered in Albania, as the quintessentially oppressed proletarian under capitalism. It is possible that something is gained in the translation.

Cinema is immersive…So how awake exactly are we supposed to be, down there in the darkness? Let alone how woke?

Cinema is immersive. It fulfils Aby Warburg’s fears: it tends to abolish our critical faculties. So how awake exactly are we supposed to be, down there in the darkness? Let alone how woke? The Russian director Vertov established the mode of the Kinoki (film-eyed); this was a form of experimental documentary in the post-revolutionary years. He was very clear: he wanted an audience that was entirely conscious, aware of class and of filmic form in every moment. But Buñuel wanted to use filmic form to prod the audience’s unconscious, to link film with dream. Years later Buñuel’s collaborator, Salvador Dali, was commissioned by Hitchcock to design the dream sequence for Vertigo. It was the least successful part of the film. It was Buñuel who knew how to make film dream-like. Not by flagging up flashy images.

So, if we have established nothing else, we have established that representation in film is complex. Complex sometimes to the point of being opaque. Let us revive for a moment our distinction between the transparent character and the occluded one. If a character is transparent to us, then we do not need to struggle to understand his code of being. It shines through. His motions, gestures and language speak unproblematically to us, without the intervention of any translations. He is effectively indistinguishable from our daily culture. But let’s move east. The Burmese Harp is a film that requires us (us in the West, that is) to translate the actions, assumptions and gestures of a foreign culture. We have not been raised to be Samurai. We have to constantly adapt our code of perception. Whereas, when John Wayne arrives in Ireland in The Quiet Man we need no translation. In this sense he is a transparent man in a transparent film. Nothing is occluded, though much frustrates.

In Young Mr Lincoln the most authoritative element is Lincoln’s voice and his reasoning. It is a quiet film, and it argues that the West was amenable to reason. In another film by the same director, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, John Wayne’s gun is the real authority be­­hind Jimmy Stew­art’s demo­cratic rhetoric. The meta­physics of the two films are diametrically opposed. Here the gun is the ultimate arbiter of truth and power. Ford spells it out for us. A supporting character says when the facts contradict the legend, print the legend. It is what Ford had spent much of his directing life doing. Hence all those legendary Indians with their lethal whoops. But he also knew this was a world that was dying; maybe dead already.

So the transparent character is one we can view unproblematically. The occluded character we cannot. In a Chaplin movie we are with the resourceful little fellow all the way. And we know that the big fellow with the dark beard is a bad lot altogether; they are both transparent, all the same. We can see through the millimetres to their essence. In film noir occlusion reigned. You could not even be sure of the police; they might be on the make. And in films like Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice, ordinary middle-class Americans (who should be genetically transparent; it’s in their Constitution) have become occluded by passion. So driven by sex and desire that not even God or the State can stop them in their tracks. They are, in effect, occluded now even to themselves. The ancient Greeks understood this well enough: a god had come and ripped away their functioning minds. That acknowledgment is retained in French law, in the form of crime passionnel.

Cinema was the only new art form of the twentieth century; and it is the first art form to be so dependent on technology….It is the first art to require speed.

Cinema was the only new art form of the twentieth century; and it is the first art form to be so dependent on technology. You need machines to record it, machines to play it, machines to hear it. It is the first art to require speed. Persistence of vision combined with 24 clicks a second gave us the illusion that stationary images were images in motion. If the machine breaks down, you cannot see the movie. And maybe speed in art is appropriate to such a dromological age: After all, Einstein’s founding equation on the nature of our universe included a speed. No civilization before had ever done that.

The nature of representation in film is as complex as the nature of representation everywhere else. Perhaps there are as many representations as there are people to be represented. And one of the greatest mistakes is to imagine that we command our representations. Too many forces come into play. It is not clear that Ford ever came to terms entirely with the darkness of his own vision in The Searchers. He simply didn’t know what to do with it. The boozy violent sentimentalism of The Quiet Man was an easier place to live. Your code of being was unproblematical; everyone was transparent. Things came right in the end.

What do our representations mean, whether in or out of film? What for example does the albatross signify in Coleridge’s poem, ‘The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner’? Coleridge himself indicated that it was something to do with the majesty and purity of nature. That’s how he glossed the matter in the earliest editions. This majesty is laid low by the wanton act of the mariner. Nature is fractured as tragically as it is in the ancient myth when Proserpina is taken to Hell by Hades. Her mother Ceres is in charge of the seasons. The seasons promptly stop. Nature too is halted into a hideous stasis in the poem. A graceful and enormous bird, which can fly around the world without really moving its wings, is shot down by an arrow. It could be seen as Nature opposed to Man. But we must remark: few people seem to have seen it that way in Coleridge’s own time. The accounts of Cook’s voyages show that anyone skilful enough to shoot an albatross was much valued by the ship’s crew. More meat on this bird than most. A good way to avoid scurvy. So what was the real aboriginal crime, then? William Empson, in one of his essays, suggests that it might have been slavery.

Coleridge had been spending a lot of time in Bristol where, as his landlady put it, he went out spouting with his fellow Unitarian preachers. And Bristol was at the time acquiring its considerable wealth through slaving ships. Not something anyone could ignore. It was after all, a matter of pride for most. So we have an expansionist maritime fleet, going overseas, meeting foreign people, and enslaving them. We have to think of Freud’s processes in the dream-work: condensation, displacement and overdetermination. All of that vast dark activity focuses itself in one bird, and a white one, not a black one. In the metaphysics of the poem, the bird emblematizes a great evil done abroad, by seamen, with dreadful consequences. Thus is one evil displaced on to another, all that activity is condensed into one living creature. There are too many forces at work at once: this is not determination, but overdetermination.

Representations can travel a long way. No longer in millimetres on celluloid, but in thousands and thousands of miles.

And all this was going on in Bristol. Where of late Edward Colston, a seventeenth-century slaver, had his statue pulled down and chucked into the harbour. Bristol. Where in 1904 Archie Leach was born. One of the main modes of art is metamorphosis; we all lean forward to hear the story of the shapeshifter. Cinema is the most magical  means for its conveyance. It was celluloid’s exemplary gift for transmutation that made Disney possible. There representation is always manifold; never entirely expected. After his mother’s nervous breakdown, young Archie joined up with a group of acrobats in the Hippodrome. It was as a tumbler that he first made it to America. And then, emerging finally from his pupa, he reincarnated as Cary Grant. A name from nowhere, and an accent from nowhere to match it. He then became the most intelligently suave actor in the history of cinema. A long way from Edward Colston, a long way from Samuel Taylor Coleridge, too. But no further in either case than he was from Archie Leach. Representations can travel a long way. No longer in millimetres on celluloid, but in thousands and thousands of miles.

Alan Wall was born in Bradford, studied English at Oxford, and lives in North Wales. He has published six novels and three collections of poetry, including Doctor PlaceboJacob, a book written in verse and prose, was shortlisted for the Hawthornden Prize. His work has been translated into ten languages. He has published essays and reviews in many different periodicals including the Guardian, Spectator, The Times, Jewish Quarterly, Leonardo, PN Review, London Magazine, The Reader and Agenda. He was Royal Literary Fund Fellow in Writing at Warwick University and Liverpool John Moores and is currently Professor of Writing and Literature at the University of Chester and a contributing editor of The Fortnightly Review. His book Endtimes was published by Shearsman in 2013, and Badmouth, a novel, was published by Harbour Books in 2014. A collection of his essays was issued by Odd VolumesThe Fortnightly Review’s publishing imprint, also in 2014. A second collection, of his Fortnightly reflections on Walter Benjamin, followed in 2018, and a third collection, Midnight of the Sublime, has just been published. An archive of Alan Wall’s Fortnightly work is here.

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