Zsolt Győri

E-mail address:  gyorizs@yahoo.co.uk
Home institution: 
University of Debrecen
Academic position: assistant professor
Areas of research: film theory, film philosophy,
film and society, British cinema
Title of the presentation: The Sensation of Being Alive


Most important Publications

  • Irodalom és film a tabuk földjén: Stanley Kubrick Lolita és Gépnarancs adaptációja. Nagyvilág 51.8 (2006. augusztus): 802-813.
  • Gilles Deleuze filmfilozófiájának kritikai és klinikai olvasata. Apertúra filmelméleti és filmtörténeti szakfolyóirat. 2007 ősz.
  • Érzéki textúrák és emlékezet-stratégiák Atom Egoyan filmjeiben. Pethő Ágnes (szerk). Film, kép, nyelv. Kolozsvár: Sapientia Kiadó, 2007: 241-258.
  • Cultural and National Identities In WWII British Cinema: Analysis of Alexander Korda?s That Hamilton Woman and Michael Powell?s A Cantenbury Tale. Ágnes Pethő ed., Words and Images on the Screen:Language, Literature, Moving Pictures. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholar Publishing. 284-299.
  • Fejezetek a brit film történetéből. Eger, Líceum Kiadó, 2010. (editor).
  • Memento: a műfajfilm Szindbádja? Apertúra filmelméleti és filmtörténeti szakfolyóirat (2010 tél)
  • A rések és a repedések: jegyzetek John Huston életművéhez. Apertúra filmelméleti és filmtörténeti szakfolyóirat (2011 nyár)

Title of the presentation

The Sensation of Being Alive


?The work of art is being of sensation and nothing else? reads the thesis sentence of the chapter on art in What is Philosophy?, the volume in which Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari lay out ? in most general terms ? their understanding of art as a form of thought separate yet organically arising from the logic underlying both the disciplines of philosophy and science. Such definition of art carries in itself a notion of liveliness and alludes to a state of heightened perceptual and affective receptivity. For Deleuze, art, as a symptom of being alive, arises from a certain athleticism of the senses, which should be conceived as something independent of both the technical skills and the personal experience of the artist. Other skills are required of the creative artist: first and foremost the ?skill? to put into motion compounds of sensation, to discover percepts and affects, these foreign bodies within perception and affection. In short: to reveal ?otherness caught in a matter of expression?. It is the metaphor of the becoming-house (applicable to all artistic media) through which Deleuze hopes to capture the ?inorganic life? of sensation capable to stand up on its own as expression. The house understood in these terms is less a synthesis of the material base of art, technical expertise and experience, but the calculated (yet sometimes intuitive) procedure to join up blocks of percepts and affects that resist being prescriptive, and tend not to follow norms and opinions. The definition of sensation as a becoming-house ? while unveiling Deleuze?s Modernist approach to aesthetics ? emphasizes the disruption of the conventional and the canonical elements of art: the Figure in painting, the Harmony in music, the perspective in architecture, the language of determining and distinguishing landscapes and characters in literature, and the sensory-motoric links in cinema. My primary aim in the first part of the presentation is to overview the basic concepts and the underlying logic of Deleuze?s aesthetic thought, which is far from being a disciplined and disciplinary understanding of works of art; it rather arises from vaguely associated insights scattered around in essays, chapters and sections of books written by himself or in collaboration with Guattari. In my understanding the reappearing argument of these texts claims that sensation (as opposed to stagnation) is always a symptom of being alive, even if achieving such liveliness involves the act of embracing Chaos, the intensification of heterogeneity, and the framing of that which is too large in life.

With no mention of cinema in the corresponding chapter of What is Philosophy? and little reference to the other arts in Deleuze?s two-volume film theory, it seems all the more necessary to ask whether the logic underlying the concept of sensation can be applied to the aesthetics of cinema. I will argue that it can, but instead of engaging in the close-reading of key passages from the books, I turn to Stanley Kubrick?s The Shining for evidence. My choice is by no way accidental. Kubrick?s adaptation of King?s novel involves the cinematic rendering of literary sensations, thus serving as an ideal case study to explore the adequacy of Deleuze?s general (non form-specific) aesthetic assumptions. In my view the written and the audio-visual narrative exemplify two attitudes to aesthetic composition, with King representing the more traditional epic approach, with emphasis on psychological characterisation and strong causality as far as storyline is concerned. Had Kubrick simply recreate this composite sensation of The Shining, his adaptation would have resulted in a film belonging to the paradigm of the movement image: a cinematic house-sensation of solid sensory-motoric links, generic clichés wrapped in a monumental, yet easily deciphered and oversimplifying opinion of madness. I believe Kubrick does not reoccupy such a house, rather envisions another one, which is less dull and more catatonic than the original, and has more openings onto prephenomenal energies (time as immanence) instead of supernatural beings (projections of mental states). Kubrick rebuilds the sensation-house on the terrain of the time- image, where percepts and affects constitute aberrant series and are liberated from those totalizing linkages which always actualize the material they frame. Whereas King portrays the supernatural awakening of the hotel?s malicious spirits with a strong reliance on psychological realism, Kubrick?s pure optical and sound situations minimizes the importance of supernatural events, and concentrates on Jack?s non-human becoming.

I believe that Stanley Kubrick?s version of the The Shining offers insight into Deleuze?s metaphor of the sensation-house, since in the focus of the story is a paralysed artist, suffering from a writer?s block. With his mind unfocused, preoccupied with its own paralysis (what Deleuze would call ?sheer opinion?), he finds himself writing a manuscript of infinite repetition, a text with a zero degree of purpose or usefulness. Yet it is here, in the endless flow of a single sentence that Jack comes into touch with a non-personal form of memory, a past lost but not forgotten, a past without orientation towards action: an involuntary past. His text may be without the power to affect, to evoke sensation within the sphere of the actual exactly because it comes to occupy a place within another order (the virtual), just as Jack comes to embrace forces which (through repression) he shook off in his past life. The ?other Jack?, this eruptive, desire-affirming creature springs to life on the ruins of his old self after a radical departure (deterritoralisation) from his family, official responsibilities, and mediocrity as an artist. I guess this is what we call insanity, yet Kubrick portrays Jack?s transformation, his becoming-other, becoming-hotel not as a dead-end, but as the element of difference within a closely controlled repetitive series (the difference of repetition), the very element, which avows sensation. My final speculations will hopefully prove me right in describing Kubrick?s The Shining a Deleuzian Künstlerroman.

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