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But then, Carroll has an even more fundamental objection to the whole strain of psychoanalytic film theory than its lack of empiricism. We just have to demand it and, where possible, write it. Similarly, when an agent does something that is rational, we have no prima facie reason to investigate into the psychoanalytic causes of his behaviour. Reading it, I felt the pieces being put into place, and my instinctive scepticism about film theory finally getting the thorough, systematic justification I had been craving.

It would be a fantasy

It would be a fantasy to assume silly theory would go away because of one sternly worded book. It is difficult to gauge the evidential support for this account.

This moment is pre-Oedipal. The unfortunate reality is that theory goes along like a train on a track that is constantly being built ahead of it. The last point ties into another angle of attack, which is the devaluation of evidentiary proof. Unfortunately, however, formulating a smarter sceptical response is difficult when dealing with a whole body of academic film theory.

In fact I just returned from the annual Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference and was surprised to see the continued influence of Lacan and other vestiges of s theory on many panel topics. Never mind that nobody else can follow.

The weight of psychoanalysis in film studies is still being felt. If someone comes along and blows up the track behind the train, those on the train will merrily keep on going.

It is difficult to gauge

However, its effect on the wider world of film theory has, unsurprisingly I suppose, not been quite as profound as it was on me. This is a massively important point. In many ways, the prevalence of Grand Theory has diluted the importance of real historiography. This is where we enter the realm of capitalised, important-sounding Film Theory.

However, for most of us, life is too short. And you can find an interesting article on Carroll at Senses of Cinema, here. My real problem with this type of scholarship is that it does not demand historical or even theoretical rigor. Maybe some white people envision breasts as white and then go on to associate the latter with white screens. So, for example, we get psychoanalytic interpretations of films, which read films through theories about how the subconscious mind functions.

So Carroll probes the gaps. Indeed, that is perhaps one of his most potent rhetorical devices. That is, where adequate rationalistic explanations are available, we do not require psychonalysis. But not everyone is white. On a film-by-film basis, those lines get drawn based on the strength of the argument put in front of you by an individual piece of criticism.