Chapter 10: Polyvalent world cinema

Polyvalent world cinema 

◉ The final chapter, on polyvalence, is an equally significant step in a course on world cinema. Recognizing that films are always ‘read’ from the vantage point of the viewer’s position in the world, it reinforces the de-centering project of the  book. No longer should cinema studies consider interpretations and scholarship from the West as more valid or legitimate than others. Efforts at ‘de-Westernizing’ must develop an awareness that every interpretation, every theoretical model, is specifically situated and bespeaks a particular view of the world

◉ As films travel across cultural spaces and understanding of films in world cinema. As films travel across cultural spaces and borders, they are charged with belief systems, conditions of reception, and imperatives of the moment, whether political, ethical, or cultural. Differentiated meanings of films arise from a heuristic mix of forces at work, shaping the popularity and values of their construction

◉ Frederic Jameson takes up the notion of valences as an investment of agency. He proposes that dialectical thought may be engaged in reversals of valences by transforming the values and functions to uncover the possibilities of reading history. To shift the valences is to change the trajectory of thought and render it effective for the political force in the present… Retaining the notion of valences as an agency is to recognize that readings of films are charged by interpretive apparatuses of the viewers. The three models we propose–cognitive mapping, worldliness, and worlding– are borrowed from world and comparative literature, though film studies scholars have used them in select instances

Cognitive mapping

◉ To watch a film that originates from a location other than our own is to be aware of two spatial worlds

◉ According to Tom Conley,  “A film can be understood in a broad sense to be a ‘map’ that plots and colonizes the imagination of the public it is said to ‘invent’ and, as a result, to seek to control”

◉ A cognitive map is not a physical map, but a representational map, a perception of that space”

◉ Jameson proposes that cognitive mapping involves three elements: the individual subject, the real, and the imaginary projection”

◉ Cognitive mapping, the representation of the totality of the world-system, thus becomes a pedagogical and political tool in approaching globalization, a way to attend to the distortions, and reorient the individual to the collective, the local with the global”


◉ The notion of worldliness, developed first in the work of Edward W. Said (1983) and then Achille Mbembe (2000), attemps to reorient the perspective from a global imagination to the situational specificity of the reader, the viewer, and the critic

◉ Worldliness of the text comes from the self-conscious efforts of the creators to embed the conditions of their production into their work, while “worldliness” of the critic comes from the act of placing the text and interpretation in its specific historical, cultural and political conditions of reading

◉ Readings produced by worldliness speak of the location of the critic, the conditions of reception, and the play of power that shapes each step of the process

◉ As Mbembe and Nuttall note, “Worldliness, in the context, has had to do not only with the capacity to generate one’s own cultural forms, institutions, and lifeways, but also with the ability to foreground, translate, fragment, and disrupt realities and imaginaries originating elsewhere, and in the process place these forms and processes in the service of one’s own making”


◉ When a viewer watches a film in some corner of this globe, it is an opportunity to give meaning to that experiences, a moment to create worlds. What distinguishes the current moment in world cinema are the widely expanded opportunities in this world-creation

◉ Martin Heidegger’s The origin of the Work of Art’(1971) proposes that our encounter with art discloses the world. Heidegger approaches art or aesthetic experience as an examination of the process of perception, and as a discovery of our relationship to the objects around us

◉ It is not that we know the world as subjects and objects, but that the relationship is mutually entwined, disclosing both in a process of existence.

◉ Art opens up our world, allowing us to understand ourselves as much as showing us the regions, contexts, limits, and possibilities of things around us

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