For our first session of Representing Violence, we heard for the first time from faculty outside of the English department. Professor Michalczyk is a prolific filmmaker, renowned locally and abroad for films covering topics ranging from vexed relations among Boston ethnic populations to highly controversial national conflicts. A strikingly accomplished speaker, Michalczyk consistently presented his explanations of his films in a lucid and engaged manner. Despite this clarity, however, there seemed to be a marked distance between the pointed objectives of the filmmaker and the more abstract, analytical concerns of the audience. This distance seemed more apparent during the presentation and response than during the question and answer portion.
For my part, I wanted to select a topic that would (1) respond to some of the key issues raised by the series as a whole (2) begin a discussion of the ways in which film and literature struggle with similar theoretical issues and (3) encourage the audience to respond to some of these intriguing overlaps. Building upon generalized theories of Burke and Benjamin, my first question dealt with the role of technology in creating sympathy for the spectacle of suffering. The transition from my response to the question and answer portion seemed to go fairly smoothly. After some preliminary questions about specific terminology used in the series, the discussion moved to the role of the filmmaker in mediating the spectacle of violence. Patrick drew a parallel between the visual implications of cinematic violence and the Burkean ‘sympathetic’ sublime. Judith Wilt raised a question about his precarious role of the filmmaker as both creator and silent observer. A few additional questions followed before the session closed with Professor Michalczyk’s explanation of the series’ progression away from a ‘talking heads’ approach to conflict resolution to one that brings together more spontaneous methods of capturing individual and communal perspectives.