Cite as: Christoph Holzhey, Introduction to the lecture Jennifer Fay, Thinking on Film with Arendt and Cavell, ICI Berlin, 25 May 2020, video recording, mp4, 10:29 <>
25 May 2020


By Christoph Holzhey

Video in English

Format: mp4
Length: 00:10:29
First published on:
Rights: © ICI Berlin

Part of the Lecture

Thinking on Film with Arendt and Cavell / Jennifer Fay

This talk connects the writings of Hannah Arendt and Stanley Cavell to questions of thinking: what it is and how it appears in the world and on film. For both philosophers, thinking may be understood as a form of leave-taking, roaming, even of straying; the mind wanders while the body stays put. That is, thinking is a form of errancy. Arendt argues that thinking, which deals with ‘invisibilities and is itself invisible’, poses a challenge to representation (there is, she writes, a ‘scarcity of documentary evidence’). In contrast, Cavell turns to the camera’s ‘knowledge of the metaphysical restlessness’ in the fidgety body whose mind is at work. When it catches the body in thought, cinema may even ‘prove thinking’, albeit through the body’s least intelligent activity. Whereas Arendt is concerned that thinking defies representation, Cavell worries that with the arrival of cinema, the mind, betrayed by the body, is in a state of perpetual visibility and subject to misunderstanding (a concern related to his career-long interest in ‘the problem of other minds’). In his reading of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Cavell explains how cinema phenomenalizes the errancy of thought and dramatizes errors of interpretation. This talk takes up the idea of errancy as a property of thinking in cinematic environments.

The talk will be followed by discussion with Gertrud Koch and Astrid Deuber-Mankowsky.

Jennifer Fay is Professor of Film and English at Vanderbilt University where she also directs the Program in Cinema & Media Arts. She is the author or co-author of three books, most recently Inhospitable World: Cinema in the Time of the Anthropocene (2018). Her current book project is tentatively titled ‘Sincerity and the Media of Appearance’. She was supposed to start a research fellowship at Cinepoetics — Center for Advanced Film Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin in 2020, which had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


ICI Berlin
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Jennifer Fay
Astrid Deuber-Mankowsky
Gertrud Koch
Christoph F.E. Holzhey

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ICI Berlin