“What does it Matter? All is Grace” Lisabeth During in Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities

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Our Professor Lisabeth During has just published a new essay in a special issue of Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities on "Belief in Cinema." The full text of her essay “What does it Matter? All is Grace” is available at http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/zJGTR28uHn9DmKB9u5iQ/full

Lisabeth During studied theology at the University of Cambridge, taught for many years in the Philosophy Department at the University of New South Wales, before joining the Department of Social Science & Cultural Studies and its Critical & Visual Studies program. She has published on Hegel, Artaud, George Eliot, Surrealism and André Bazin. Her The Book of Chastity: Studies in an Ascetic Ideal will be published soon. 

“What does it Matter? All is Grace”
Lisabeth During


Admirers of Robert Bresson often remark on the commitments he shares with the philosopher and activist Simone Weil. Both stubbornly idiosyncratic, they subscribe to what modernists call “a poetics of impersonality”: a deep desire to shed the ego and find some space empty of will, intention and even consciousness. Bresson pursued this ideal through his anti-theatrical practice, his resistance to expression and interpretation, and his war against “acting.” In Weil's religious thinking, the possibility of achieving a state of automatism in the soul, and thus leaving room for God to occupy all, was central. “Decreation,” her term for this principle, sounds like a will to suicide (a recurring theme in Bresson) but she explains it as motivated by love. Bresson's writerly films – the Bernanos adaptations (especially Diary of a Country Priest) – and Au hasard Balthazar – take as their theme the problem of grace. As in Weil, the path to grace goes through an acceptance of brutal necessity and incomprehensible accident. This is also the conclusion of Rossellini's Europa ’51. While André Bazin is a thinker with a keen sensitivity to grace and spiritual accident – his interest in depth of field is motivated by a desire to keep the free exercise of chance in play – his notion of love is more compassionate than anything we meet in Weil, Bresson or Rossellini. As Truffaut remarked, Bazin is a Christian from the days before the Fall.

Keywords: Robert Bresson, Simone Weil, grace, asceticism, decreation,  impersonality, modernism.

I saints and cinema
II robert bresson and the chastity of style:...
III impersonality as style
IV grace in cinema, real and invisible
V the reticence of literature
VI acting against attention
VII conclusion: realism and grace

During, Lisabeth. 2012. Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities
Volume 17, Issue 4, (p.157-177).
Special Issue: Belief in Cinema

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