CFP: Journal of Communication and Languages – Photography, Cinema, and the Ghostly

Throughout the nineteenth century, the camera was believed to be a diabolical machine that could steal human souls. In one of the most notorious texts included in When I Was a Photographer (1899), Félix Nadar famously described how Honoré de Balzac thought that “each body in nature is composed of a series of specters”, and that each “Daguerreian operation” would retain one of these spectral layers until the human body of the photographed person amounted to nothing.

If on the one hand there was this general idea that photography was a “killing instrument”, on the other hand it was clear from the beginning that photographs also granted new lives to human beings, animals, objects, etc. Being the “perfect” double of what was once seen in the visible world, the photograph becomes the space where that which is no longer alive can continue to exist. With this in mind, Roland Barthes wrote on his Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (1980) that this relatively new and mostly mechanical art form is responsible for the “return of the Dead”. Likewise, Susan Sontag (1977) also posited that “all photographs are memento mori”.

The correlation between photography and death is particularly striking in the last decades of the nineteenth century with the emergence of spirit photography. Through the extensive use of double exposures, William Mumler, William Hope, and others, demonstrated that photography not only dealt with physical reality, but could also place itself within the realms of imagination, magic and illusion.

Like photography, cinema has since its beginnings been associated with spectrality. As early as 1896, Georges Méliès was already directing films such as Le manoir du diable, where editing tricks were used in order to create a supernatural world inhabited by fantastic creatures. At the same time, the supposedly realistic films of brothers Lumière were also being perceived by some spectators as much more than direct and lifelike representations of the world. After watching a Lumière program in 1896, Maxim Gorky famously wrote: “Last night I was in the Kingdom of Shadows […] It is not life but its shadow, not motion but its soundless spectre”.

In the following decades, film critics, film theorists and philosophers as different as Ricciotto Canudo, Jean Epstein, Gilles Deleuze or Jean-Louis Leutrat explored ghostly metaphors in their inquiries on the nature of film. The prime example of this critical tendency occurs in an interview published in the Cahiers du Cinéma (2001), in which Jacques Derrida, almost a decade past the publication of Specters of Marx, characterized cinema as a “spectral technique of apparitions”.

In addition, scriptwriters and directors pertaining to different historical and cultural contexts are evidently interested in stories in which the ghostly, the oneiric and the immaterial play a special part. The exploration of such elements is not limited to German Expressionism, the American Gothic (Film) tradition of the 1940s, or the Italian Giallo, also playing an important role in the works of filmmakers as distinct and unique as Yevgeni Bauer, Luis Buñuel, Jacques Tourneur, Kaneto Shindo, Alain Resnais, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, or Pedro Costa. 

Borrowing from several important studies on the ghostly published in the wake of the “spectral turn” popularized by Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock in Spectral America (2004), this thematic issue aims to depart from and contribute to an ongoing debate which shows that many areas of spectrality in art are yet to explore. This special issue aims to reconsider the close link between photography, cinema and the ghostly, bringing together traditional and new historical, theoretical and philosophical approaches.

 

Papers can address, but are not limited to, the following topics:

  • The nineteenth century, the emergence of new media, and the ghostly imagination
  • Photography, memory, and death
  • Spirit photography
  • The ghostly in modern and contemporary photography
  • Key issues related to the ontology of the photographic image: (un)reality, (im)materiality, (in)visibilitiy and the (un)seen
  • Ghostly metaphors in film writing (criticism, theory, philosophy)
  • The spectres of digital media and/or film (in photography and/or cinema) 
  • Experience, perception, subjective images and imagination
  • The representation of dreams and hallucinations
  • Special effects aiming to enhance the spectral dimension of photography and/or film (e.g. double exposure, superimposition, stop trick, rear projection, acousmatic sound)
  • Ghostly or haunted media in fiction film (photography, radio, the Internet)
  • Ghosts across different genres (e.g., horror, melodrama, comedy, war film)
  • Critical and contemporary approaches to the concept of spectrality

 

The articles can be written in English, French, Spanish  or Portuguese, and will be subject to a double-blind peer review. They must comply with the journal’s submission guidelines and be sent through the OJS platform until May 31th, 2020.

 

For queries, contact the editors José Bértolo (jlbertolo@gmail.com) and/or Margarida Medeiros (medeiros.margarida@gmail.com).

 

Guidelines for submission and Instructions for authors:

http://www.fcsh.unl.pt/rcl/index.php/rcl/about/submissions#onlineSubmissions