Miriam Hansen's work consistently contests the “linguistic turn” of structuralism, poststructuralism, and 1970s film theory. Yet the trope of language seems to return incessantly in her critical discourse as a privileged object of analysis—the concept of a universal language, vernacular modernism, D. W. Griffith's hieroglyphic language, and, not least, Babel as a structuring catastrophe of the linguistic dream. Here Doane isolates the concept of a universal language and traces its haunting of film theory in a direction that Hansen does not pursue—that of the close-up of the face, especially in the work of Jean Epstein and Béla BalÁzs. Screens, beginning with cinema, increasingly interrupt yet mime face-to-face contact. This condition is construed as a loss, similar to that of Babel and its universal language: a loss of the fantasized immediacy, transparency, and presence of face-to-face communication.
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Mary Ann Doane; Facing a Universal Language. New German Critique 1 August 2014; 41 (2 (122)): 111–124. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0094033X-2680801
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