COLT103 University of Michigan A Labyrinth of Linkages Article Reflection Essay There are four reading files. Choose One to write. word count at least 360w

COLT103 University of Michigan A Labyrinth of Linkages Article Reflection Essay There are four reading files. Choose One to write. word count at least 360writing requirement:Need one full page double-spaced response paper. The response papers are intended to be a useful tool to help gauge your understanding of and response to the class readings. Your response papers may be as simple as recounting what you learned from an especially interesting reading that you didn’t know before or as complex as briefly comparing different interpretations of a given film drawn from more than one assigned text. THE DESIRING-IMAGE: GILLES DELEUZE AND CONTEMPORARY QUEER CINEMA
“Beyond Gay”
“We’re Just Not Sure What Kind It Is”
David Cronenberg constitutes an unnerving yet uniquely rewarding
test case for theorizing queer cinema. To appreciate why this is so, we
begin with a quick survey of his singular career, beginning in the
early 1970S when he filmed a test scene for Cinepix, a new Canadian
production company known for boosting their films’ commercial
potential with soft-core eroticism. Cronenberg’s audition piece
involved a man and woman making love in a swing, and, despite
chuckles about his formalist approach to such low-bar material (“I
was very interested in getting interesting angles and stuff’), it earned
a basically warm reception.!
Then, however, his prospective employers got a look at Stereo
(1969) and Crimes of the Future (1970), two hour-long films
Cronenberg shot on glossy 3smm stock to mark his graduation from
student projects. Stereo transpires at a facility called the Canadian
Academy for Erotic Enquiry, where a dandyish doctor studies five
nubile youths possessing “omnisexual” orientations as well as
telepathic superpowers. Filmed with Kubrickian detachment in black
and white, the subjects and researcher cruise each other throughout
the Academy’s bucolic grounds and brutalist hallways. They fondle
anatomical models; swap pacifiers and pop pills with sensual
exaggeration; and enjoy sexual roundelays of men with women, men
with men, or men with women and men. Mysterious, deadpan voiceovers on the otherwise empty soundtrack struggle to taxonomize
these desires, such that the film defamiliarizes language as well as
bodies, turning clinical discourse against itself and undermining
gendered and sexual cliches.
Crimes of the Future follows Adrian Tripod, a Kafkaesque figure
pursuing his lost mentor, the “mad dermatologist” Antoine Rouge,
who vanished upon discovering a plague whose victims emit a
sexually arousing foam from their pores and orifices. Male sufferers
of this syndrome sprout new external organs, and when they wrestle,
stroke, or massage each other, as happens frequently, they express
the malignant, erogenous froth in shots oflivid, Godardian color. The
only female character is a preteen girl, threatened in the finale by an
armed band of “heterosexual pedophiles,” including Adrian. The edits
obscure any temporal sequence or firm coordinates of reality. Stereo
and Crimes secured enviable bookings and reviews in Canada,
London, Paris, and New York, but Cinepix balked. Declining to hire
Cronenberg, they demurred, “We know you have a strong sexual
sensibility, we’re just not sure what kind it is.”2
This setback notwithstanding, Cronenberg’s story ends happily,
without his “sexual sensibility” assuming any legible shape. Cinepix,
later absorbed into the mighty Lionsgate Films Corporation
(headquarters of Tyler Perry, Michael Moore, The Hunger Games,
and Saw), eventually financed and distributed Cronenberg’s feature
debut, Shivers (1975), released in the United States as They Came
from Within and elsewhere as The Parasite Murders. That film,
about a lethal outbreak of sluglike, aphrodisiacal parasites, played in
forty countries and recouped its cost dozens of times over. 3 The
severe architecture, hubristic science, sexual panic, mutating bodies,
and pessimistic finale of Shivers lingered as Cronenbergian
hallmarks even as his work evolved. 4 One recalls-indeed, one
struggles to forget-the dwarves Samantha Eggar hatches from
externally distended wombs in The Brood (1979); the heads exploded
by ESP in Scanners (1981); the handguns and mind-controlling
videotapes James Woods wrests into and out of his invaginated
abdomen in Videodrome (1983); or Jeff Goldblum’s curio cabinet of
his own leprous body parts in The Fly (1986).5
Cronenberg’s later movies yield traces of their predecessors’ grisly
eruptions, enervated masculinities, and peculiar erotics but contain
them within discrete sequences, amid more elegant mise-en-scene
and among less monstrous characters. For this streamlined style, he
has been handsomely rewarded: each of his last seven features, from
Crash (1996) through Cosmopolis (2012), premiered in competition
at one of the “big four” film festivals (Berlin, Cannes, Toronto, and
Venice), earning prestigious prizes and nominations along the way.6
Cronenberg has presided over the competition jury at Cannes and
been ordained a Chevalier of the French Order of Arts and Letters. As
early as 1983, Robin Wood wrote, “After many years of critical
neglect and disfavour, David Cronenberg is now ‘in.”’? Thirty years
onward, and not unlike the venereal slugs and rogue amino acids that
wreak havoc across his early portfolio, he has worked his way even
further “in.”
To a degree unusual even for fellow arthouse darlings, the
aesthetic and thematic shifts in Cronenberg’s work have dovetailed
with contemporaneous evolutions in cinema scholarship, generating
several book-length studies and countless articles. In one of these
monographs, William Beard charts three major phases in the
filmmaker’s corpus, coeval with academic trends: first, in the 1970S, a
shared passion for deconstructing binaries such as mind/body,
inner/outer, health/illness, and male/female; then, in the late 1970S
and the 1980s, a joint swerve toward psychoanalytic tropes; and,
most recently, for Cronenberg and for cinema studies, a focalizing of
“the relationship between social and aesthetic values in controversial
art .
One could spin the arc of Cronenberg’s career differently by noting
the abrupt evanescence of homoerotics from his work for almost
twenty years after Stereo and Crimes-surely among the elements
that unsettled Cinepix, though likely not the only one. Indeed, many
critics would consider “evanescence” an unduly polite term to
characterize Cronenberg’s concerted refusal of homoeroticism even
when, from the late 1980s to the mid 1990S, he continually adapts
films from famous texts with strongly sexualized male-male
relationships. These include the melds of literary work and real-life
scandal that inspired Dead Ringers (1988), Naked Lunch (1991), and
M Butterfly (1993), as well as J. G. Ballard’s cult novel Crash (1996).
For many viewers, the celebrity of these appropriated texts makes all
the more galling Cronenberg’s elisions of sexual acts between men,
whether or not they identify as gay, or of climactic spectacles of male
nudity, such as the one he excises from M Butterfly.9 On these and
related grounds, feminist and queer scholars have generally proved
the most outspoken challengers to the intensifying critical and
academic embrace of Cronenberg’s work.
I argue, though, that compared with frequent charges of
homophobia and misogyny, Cinepix delivered a shrewder diagnosis
of the sexual and gendered valences of Cronenberg’s films by
pinpointing their very elusiveness. To watch Dead Ringers or Naked
Lunch is to detect a strong sexual sensibility, but to remain unsure
what kind it is. Given those films’ cross-textual derivations and
baffling erotics, plus Cronenberg’s recurring synchronicity with
scholarly trends, either movie might easily have resonated with
enthusiasts of New Queer Cinema. lO Coinciding precisely with the
New Queer launch years, Dead Ringers and Naked Lunch were also
the films that garnered Cronenberg his newfound status as a lionized
auteur; he received awards from some of the same groups that
laureled B. Ruby Rich’s famous cohort. Most germanely of all, the
strategies in these two films for producing new concepts of
nonheterosexual desire are not just narrative- or character-based but
inhere deeply in form and style.
Despite these symmetries, however, Cronenberg has never held
any standing as a New Queer artist and, if anything, remains more
famous as a thorn in the side of queer filmgoers than as a contributor
to that watershed movement. I2 His earlier body of work and
disingenuous statements about homosexuality warrant some blame
for this, but so do scholars of New Queer Cinema. Despite articulating
that movement in relation to theories of sex, gender, or desire as
irrational, nonidentitarian, and irreducible to homosexuality,
scholars often conflate queerness with analyses of unconventional
lesbian and gay stories, as rendered by lesbian and gay filmmakers.
Omitting artists like Cronenberg proved costly for New Queer
scholarship and enthusiasm, enabling narrow conceptions and,
hence, premature lamentations.
My defense of the profound, productive queerness of Cronenberg’s
cinema relies not just on New Queer tropes but also on his work’s
remarkable resonance with yet another concurrent trend in film
studies. Over the next two chapters, I posit Dead Ringers and Naked
Lunch as helpful illustrations, historical sequels, and claim-testing
provocations with regard to Gilles Deleuze’s notions of film. I3
Cinema 1 and Cinema 2 coincide in their original French publications
with Cronenberg’s first graduation to new critical acclaim, circa
Videodrome and The Fly; the books first arrived in English
translation during the late 1980s, as Cronenberg attained even
greater global prestige.
Deleuze’s analytical lexicons are barely less alien than Rouge’s
Malady, the Brundlefly, or other Cronenbergian inventions. Beyond
this shared passion for neologism and reinvention, Cronenberg
ideally suits Deleuze’s taste for auteurs with clear stylistic and
philosophical stamps; he surely would have appeared in the Cinema
books had Deleuze written them but a few years later. Happily,
Cronenberg’s motifs and Deleuze’s ideas complement each other so
well that each illuminates what may otherwise prove impenetrably
strange in the other. In recombining semidiscrete concepts and
textual sources, Cronenberg’s films satisfy Deleuze’s edict not to
repeat extant ideas but to produce new uses for them and new
relations among them. In return, Deleuze helps us appreciate
Cronenberg’s cinema as a factory that constantly generates new
structures of gender, sexuality, and desire, even when these visions
have been coolly received.
Dead Ringers and Naked Lunch constitute an especially propitious
pair for unpacking through Deleuze, based on affinities linking the
earlier film to Cinema 1 and the later one to Cinema 2. Dead Ringers,
with its reclusive sibling protagonists driven to sexual adventure,
addiction, and death, echoes Cinema 1’S concerns with how
determinedly closed or deceptively rational sets succumb to forces
they cannot exclude. By contrast, Naked Lunch inhabits from its
outset, as does Cinema 2, an entropic world of nomadic flights and
constant breaks, both formal and thematic, in the wake of major
catastrophe. Notwithstanding these distinctions, the films also
highlight overlaps between the Cinema volumes, each of which
theorizes the image in terms of production and concealment. Those
dynamics are importantly formal in the ways Cronenberg and
Deleuze approach them, yet they also gravitate powerfully around
questions of desire, a subject on which both filmmaker and
philosopher keep prevaricating, either through facetious reasoning or
silence. If that seems unusual for Cronenberg, so infamous as a
taboo-busting, body-obsessed provocateur, it is just as bizarre for the
co-author of Anti-Oedipus. Still, this first chapter, introducing my
notion of a desiring-image while charting Dead Ringers’s specific
enactment of that concept, contends that both men germinate fresh,
forceful ideas about desire even when they appear to avoid the topic
or, in Cronenberg’s case, to constrain its figurations.
In proposing that Dead Ringers echoes New Queer Cinema even as
it challenges that discourse, I do not classify as “gay” its twin-brother
protagonists Beverly and Elliot Mantle (played by Jeremy Irons).
Granted, these cohabiting bachelors doth collude with Cronenberg’s
script in protesting this allegation, perhaps too much-enough
anyway, to prompt suspicions even among viewers with no other
reason to harbor any. With the arrival of the actress and patient
Claire Niveau (Genevieve Bujold), who dates both brothers
unwittingly and then Beverly exclusively, the relations between the
Mantles, whatever they are, break from decades of unarticulated
habit. As Beverly’s bond to Claire intensifies, his attachment to Elliot
simultaneously strengthens and shatters, neither proving nor
quelling intuitions about the Mantles’ bond to each other, which
appears ambiguously “sexual” but not only sexual, as does Deleuze
and Guattari’s definition of desire.
When homosexuality or any cognate category has permeated
criticism of Dead Ringers, it has typically done so via psychoanalytic
methods and vocabularies, and much of this work has been richly
suggestive. Still, in its tendency to view anomalous character
behaviors as symptoms of known structures, psychoanalytic
approaches to Cronenberg’s work can minimize the very
deterritorializations from erotic or conceptual convention that make
these films so compelling. This caveat applies most strongly, perhaps,
to Claire Niveau. Her relations to standing categories of sex and
gender and her pragmatic embrace of profound aberration vary
decisively from the Mantle brothers’ reactions, and just as decisively
from the organizing tropes toward which Freudian analyses might
lead her.
Even without broaching sexuality as a topic, Cinema 1 furnishes a
more apt theoretical foundation from which to ponder the problems
and proliferations of desire in Dead Ringers. The film poses complex
questions about what desire is and what it means to understand it as
a principle of production and mutation rather than lack. The film
heightens the intensity of these queries through its settings, framings,
and character relations, disclosing how novelties erupt unbidden
even within the most claustrophobic environments. The central
question of Dead Ringers, as of Cinema 1, therefore concerns how
closed sets, either sexual or perceptual, both resist and reveal their
ties to larger, destabilizing forces of change. Grappling with these
ideas will entail new understandings of perception, the out-of-field,
and the impulse-image, principles of filmic signification in Cinema 1
that double as apropos mechanisms for contemplating problems of
In story, style, and structure, Dead Ringers also signals what
Deleuze and Guattari would call a deterritorialized model of queer
cinema, estranging sexuality from hetero or homo conceptions, much
as Kafka’s minor literature, in their famous account, estranges
language from the sense, sound, syntax, and ideologies of a mother
tongue. Admittedly, Cronenberg’s estranging of desire mostly refrains
from building collectives or from political work-the second and third
anchors of the “minor” as a concept, which subsequent films in this
book undertake more assiduously. The caveat, however, matters less
than the contribution: the extraordinary value of Cronenberg’s
movies for The Desiring-Image, integrating their queer and
Deleuzian aspects rather than treating these as parallel, inheres in
how they defamiliarize sex, gender, embodiment, and sexuality as
mutable and open-ended forces in their own right. 14
Dead Ringers posits desire, like perception, as an ineluctable fact
of life and of film, manifested differently in any image and inviting
multiplicity and change. In this way, some of Cronenberg’s coy
defenses of his films’ gender and sexual politics attain some
credibility. As he asserted to Amy Taubin, “The sex in Naked Lunch is
beyond gay.”1 5 I agree and would add that the unevenly visible,
deterritorializing forms of gender and desire in Dead Ringers push
this film, too, “beyond gay.” In a word, it’s queer.
Dissenting from “A Dissenting View”
My argument breaks from prior feminist and queer readings in ways
important to flag upfront, establishing variation and multiplicity as
Cronenbergian tropes where other readings perceive antagonism or
censorship. I oppose, then, denunciations of his films as sex-phobic
or as granting privileges of transformation exclusively to straight
men, in part by disputing that we always know in his cinema who is
straight or gay, male or female. I therefore view Cronenberg’s crosstextual elisions of “gay” characters and scenes, however grating at
times, as important elements in how he queers the erotics of his
films, even as I contest that idee fixe of Cronenberg’s “determination
to be unsparing and unflinching, his refusal to dilute what he creates
with any considerations outside the demands of a particular
narrative.”16 More than most directors, particularly those indicted as
hostile toward sexual minorities, he signals the persistence of sexed,
gendered, and desiring possibilities beyond those rendered manifest
within his shots-and even there, heterosexuality as such hardly

reIgns supreme.
If “analysis of Cronenberg has been dominated by certain key
articles, which have tended to entrench critical positions,” then this
phenomenon has been most conspicuous regarding sexual politics. 17
Most famously, Robin Wood’s “Cronenberg: A Dissenting View,”
targets him as a “perfect director for the eighties” insofar as his
“movies tell us that we shouldn’t want to change society because we
would only make it even worse.”18 For Wood, the films conspire with
their crazed male protagonists in making female bodies the testing
grounds for grisly biogenetic speculations. Diagnosing strains of
sexism, puritanism, and homophobia that are not “anti-gay or antilesbian” so much as “anti-everything,” Wood only cedes value to
Cronenberg’s output “precisely in that it crystallizes some of our
society’s most negative attitudes-to sexuality, to women, to all ideas
of progress.”1 9 Useful to progressives, then, only by helping them
know their enemies, the films “seem unable to affirm anything, and
unable, at the same time, to offer any very helpful analysis of the
oppressiveness of our social institutions.”20
During what Beard calls the second, psychoanalytic phase of
Cronenberg’s work, gender critiques shifted to foreground the
narcissism, womb envies, and castration anxieties of male
protagonists, again entailing high costs for female characters
embroiled in men’s neuroses. Correspondingly, Mary Pharr alleged
that “every woman is an Eve in Cronenberg’s canon, not a foolish or
even sinful Eve, but one whose very nature is such that she becomes a
locus of danger for the male…. [These women are] fixed objects,
occasions of grace or of sin, distinct from men in the critical areas of
growth and decay.”22 Cronenbergian logic informs Pharr’s concession
that “decay” constitutes as vaunted a trajectory as “growth”harmonizing, too, with Deleuze and Guattari’s premise that “desiringmachines work only when they break down, and by continually
breaking down” (AO 8). More recently, and even more damningly,
Christine Ramsay reiterates Wood’s claim of “a neo-conservative
agenda concomitant with the crisis of straight white masculinity” and
further alleges that “with his ‘dead queers’ Cronenberg makes it from
the ‘B-list’ to the ‘A-list,’ flaunting in interview after interview what
passes in androcentric art-house culture for radical sensibility, while
blind to his own fear and hatred of radical queer lifestyles and sexual
Ramsay’s litany of “dead queers,” however, collat…
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