Film After Jung

Foreword
In ‘Film After Jung. Post-Jungian Approaches to Film Theory’
Greg Singh
Published by Routledge in June 2009

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Popular film as a medium of communication, expression and storytelling has proved one of the most durable and fascinating cultural forms to emerge during the twentieth century, and has long been the object of debate, discussion and interpretation. Film After Jung provides the reader with an overview of the history of film theory and delves into analytical psychology to consider the reaction that popular film can evoke through emotional and empathetic engagement with its audience.

This book includes:

    • an introduction to film scholarship
    • discussions of key Jungian concepts
    • Post-Jungian film studies beyond film.

It also considers the potential for post-Jungian contributions to film studies, and the ways in which these can help to enrich the lives of those undergoing clinical analysis.

Film After Jung encourages students of film and psychology to explore the insights and experiences of everyday life that film has to offer by applying Post-Jungian concepts to film, image construction, narrative, and issues in cultural theory. It will enhance the film student’s knowledge of film engagement as well as introducing the Jungian analyst to previously unexplored traditions in film theory.

Christopher Hauke’s foreword can be read below:

This book takes the theorising of film to another level. Not because it makes intelligent use of concepts derived from post-Jungian psychology – a number of writers, albeit a minority in film-writing, are picking up on this approach these days – but because Greg Singh does not expect us to take anything for granted. From the start he takes us through his arguments for validating not only, Jungian theory, (which often needs re-explaining) but also film theory which many think can be taken for granted. It cannot, and this book reminds us by making demands of concepts in film theory and Jungian psychology made necessary by the juxtapositions and syntheses in Singh’s highly original approach.

By his own admission, Greg Singh is ‘not a Jungian’ but he is a film scholar – part of a growing number who theorise on the arts who find post-Jungian approaches exciting and meaningful. He is interested in ‘the power film has to move people’ and finds the Jungian tradition a better vehicle than the cognitive tradition, especially for exploring questions around emotion and empathy in the experience of film. As he writes,

‘the act of viewing film engages our subjectivity (and sense of subjectivity)….It is a sensuous and affective act, connecting….the intimacy of perception-expression and our experience of it…..Connectedness seems to pervade the experience of film, and it is this curiosity that also pervades the Jungian and post-Jungian concerns with normative subjectivity.’

(p.267)

One of Greg Singh’s key themes is the exploration of meaningfulness – not only what film narratives and images mean, but the human, all too human, experience of finding films meaningful.

‘Meaningfulness and popular film go together, as films resonate with the real world and our experience of it’.

(p.265)

Yet none of his claims and arguments are made casually. He starts with a thorough survey of scientific and philosophical considerations around film theorising and Jungian psychology. He follows this with the first of many new approaches when he brings together the post-Jungian political-thinking with post-Jungian image-thinking in the example of the trailer for The Pursuit of Happyness (Muccino, US, 2006). His synthesis brings together the familiar semiotic-symbolic approach with an important analysis of the institutional and ideological aspects of film and its production – something Singh never loses sight of through-out the book.

Another emphasis in Greg Singh’s approach and his emphasis on affect is how he maintains that the image – the product and the experience of the audio-visual – is always an embodied image.

‘This crucial awareness of the importance of the body as a site of both reception and of feeling, of process and of emotion, in fully articulating the experience of actually watching a film, indicates another affinity  between film studies and analytical psychology.’

(p.175)

I am impressed with the way Singh manages to break down and critique and find new value in the concepts such as the archetype – a Jungian idea all too casually understood when applied outside the boundaries of analytical psychology itself. Singh re-links the archetype not only with its possibilities for helping us understand how images are meaningful, but also in the struggle between ideas of narrative (from the film side) and myth (from the Jungians). Examples from popular film like Star Wars  and The Matrix here supersede the often clichéd use of these found in other texts.

Greg Singh again keeps his political focus when discussing racial motifs – running neither towards a racial cinema, nor away into a Jungian mythology which might ignore it. Instead he brings up the issue of race as a prime example of double-consciousness and hence a modern psychological condition in general. This post-Jungian approach takes the issue of race beyond the subjective experience of the ethnically “other” subject. Referring to the work of the African-American activist W.E.B. DuBois, Singh asserts,

‘Jung’s questions are being answered from another perspective, focusing on a specific problem in order to engage a more general problem of consciousness.’

(p.232)

Greg Singh re-visits classic concerns in film theory such as the gaze, gender and difference. He moves effortlessly between the ideas of Lacan and Jung on the same psychological trajectory showing us how film studies can bring attention to the co-terminus quality of psychological views that are frequently de-linked through the politics of competing “schools” of clinical rivalry and academic bigotry. By showing how different voices may be talking about the same thing, this book demonstrates the additional value to be discovered in the engagement of academic, cultural and arts studies with psychological theorising.

A scan of the chapter headings over the next page or two will show you Greg Singh leaves very few stones unturned. Even Jung’s religious emphasis – always a question mark for a contemporary readers, especially in film studies –  is tackled through Singh’s reading of the numinosity of some films.

‘Indeed, the very experience of cinema itself supports a powerful argument suggesting that the essentially religious experiences Jung returns to time and again in his classical formulae are still very much a part of everyday engagement with our stories and myths.’

(p.247)

Indeed, post-Jungians like myself have pointed out how purchasing your seat in the cinema (and enthusiastic consumption in general) has an aura of religiosity and ritual previously reserved for the church and temple. Like all good theorists of analytical psychology and film, Singh reminds us of how social conditions are vital to the manifestation of any archetypal potential before it is known as an Image.

You will find this book indispensable. Probably because everyone else will be quoting it at you! Not only does Greg Singh share his comprehensive grasp of theorists from both sides like Grodal, Mulvey and Sobchack on film and Izod, Fredericksen, Hauke and Tacey of the post-Jungians, but he makes more of each of them through his inter-textual discoveries which take Jungian film theorising to a brand new level.

More than a valuable resource for both Jungian theorists and film theorists, Film After Jung offers a stimulating critique which not only adds to both fields, but creates an original one of its own.