Thu Sep 22, 2016
180 Tan Hall, 4–6 PM
Robert Pippin (University of Chicago)
The Philosophical Hitchcock: Vertigo and the Anxieties of Unknowingness
In almost all of Hitchcock’s films, people have a great deal of trouble understanding each other. The human condition, as he seems to understand it, is one where self-knowledge and reliable understanding of others seem extremely difficult because of the distortions caused by desire, and the pervasiveness of deceit, self-deceit, wishful thinking, and simple ignorance. The most famous manifestations of this are the many films in which the wrong person is blamed for or suspected of something. The central problem at issue could be called the struggle for mutual interpretability, and he seems to think we are very bad at such a task. In his masterpiece, Vertigo, this situation of general unknowingness is extreme, and the consequences more catastrophic than in any of his other films. I explore here the philosophical presuppositions and implications of this depiction, showing several scenes as a way of exploring why he seems to think we are in such a situation and why he thinks it has become ever more difficult in late modern societies.