Monday, September 24, 2012

"Contingency into Meaning"

(This post is late, for last week)
I want to think about Anderson’s imagined community very basically, in terms of meaning-making and Citizen Kane. In Imagined Communities, Anderson posits nationalism’s role as analogous to religion’s (waning) function: that of injecting a sense of purpose and meaning into an otherwise overwhelmingly random experience. Anderson writes that “it is the magic of nationalism to turn chance into destiny” (12), and, as someone (I read it earlier but can’t seem to find it again) on this blog has already pointed out, this is something like Jameson’s cognitive mapping; a way to manage one’s experience by imagining it as part of some larger order, by imagining that one has a “place,” so to speak. In his discussion of “homogeneous, empty time” and the novel and newspaper, Anderson writes that “the idea of a sociological organism moving calendrically through homogeneous, empty time is a precise analogue of the idea of the nation, which also is conceived as a solid community moving steadily down (or up) history” (26). This reminded me of Citizen Kane’s general theme of life's resistance to the ordering impulse. The film adopts conventions of the newspaper reporter genre and, more broadly, the detective genre, both of which are motivated a dogged (and often high-stakes) search for answers. This film’s mystery, however, is that of the meaning of a life. The reporter wants make sense of the aleatory details of a person’s life, primarily using facts arrived at via second-hand stories. Furthermore, the reporter’s goal is to make a newsreel, and thus to narrativize, Kane's existence—a totalizing, architectonic imposition (even on the level of temporality) on what is, as we recognize in details such as the undefinable “rosebud”, fundamentally fragmented and random. 

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