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A Communication from one of our recent Seminar Presenters – Catriona Miller!

Dear All
I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your participation in the seminar.  It’s been extremely interesting.  I find the seminars a valuable space in which to debate some of the issues around using Jung’s ideas to explore our culture in a (perhaps) slightly less formal way to the more usual academic conference papers.

I raised a number of questions in my paper, some of which we’ve considered.  It may have seemed a tangent at times, but actually they are a very important issues for using Jung within a cultural studies context.  Specifically here, can films be examined as if they were fairy tales?  It was my opening question and it did raise some debate.  I’m not sure a firm conclusion was reached but there was certainly a concern expressed that film should be approached with attention to production context, as well as awareness of socio-historical milieu, and the multi-modal aspects of the audiovisual language.  It can make film a rather daunting beast to tackle analytically (from a Jungian or any other theoretical perspective), but it is such a prevalent cultural form in our era, I think we need to keep trying.  The question was asked more than once, what does Jung add to this discussion?  I suspect Jungian film studies still has quite some exploration to do here, but I’m encouraged by the spirit of enquiry.  And I’m looking forward to Luke Hockley and Helena Bassil-Morozow’s forthcoming publicaton on Jungian film studies.  No pressure! ;o)

The International Journal of Jungian Studies provides a forum and focus for the exciting and important work being done in Jungian and Post-Jungian studies across the world.

Membership privileges include participation in these thought provoking seminars. Enrich your mind. – REGISTER TODAY The annual membership is only GBP £50.00.

 

A similar topic of discussion was the question of fairy tales themselves, and again the issue of context arose, and again the importance of not decontextualising fairy tales was emphasised, as Erik  Goodwyn’s helpful post yesterday made so clear with regard to ‘Beowulf’.  Maintaining an interest in insights, theory and evidence from other parts of the Academy remains essential.

But what of the zombie?  In a sense my interest in this cultural trope is twofold.  Before any analysis, I was interested in identifying a phenomenon as it is happening, rather than in retrospect.   The zombie is enthusiastically engaged with from community projects, here and now participation and acting out, to big budget Hollywood narratives, and the ‘serious’ world of politics.  Its penetration of culture is widespread.  People know all about it even when they have never seen a zombie film, or read a comic or novel.  The zombie exists above, beyond, any particular text.  It also worth noting that its origins don’t stretch back into the mists of time (or at least the folklore of ‘Old Europe’).  It is a phenomenon that arose in the second half of the twentieth century.

Those drawn (or indeed repulsed) by the zombie engage with it in a variety ways: feeling pursued by a horde of relentless zombies; feeling the deadness of the zombie; fearing the infectiousness of the zombie’s bite; the horror of transformation as the known becomes the unknown; a revelling in the black humour and schadenfreude of the horror; the ethics of how humanity treats the ‘other’; the ethics of surviving at any cost.  There are many elements to the story with the emphasis falling differently depending on who is doing the looking.

So after identification, the second issue is the analysis.  I asked in my paper if we ought to think of the zombie as a sign or a symbol.  If it stands for another thing that we can identify, then it is a sign.  If it is the ‘best possible formulation of a relatively unknown thing’ (Jung 1971: para 814) then it is a symbol.  This didn’t raise much discussion.  Possibly because we all agreed we were discussing a symbol… or possibly it was only that those who felt it was a sign, weren’t much interested in discussing it at all.  :o)   I suspect that if we were able to solve it, and think ‘yes, that’s exactly the answer!’ it would likely lose any symbolic glamour.  However, given the variety of responses and thoughts put forward in our seminar, I would tend towards thinking of it as a symbol.   A widespread and popular expression of something that can’t, at present, be expressed better than a hostile, hungry, relentless, contagious monster.

I hope we continue to look at cultural phenomena of this kind, and ask “to whom has such a story to be told?  Who needs that?” (von Franz, 1974: p.147)  If a Jungian approach does bring something to the table, it maybe this willingness to keep asking where the symptoms (or at least, the concerns raised by clusters of cultural artefacts) are leading, rather than simply charting where they came from.

Many thanks to you all once again for your kind participation.
Kind Regards
Catriona

Glasgow Caledonian University is a registered Scottish charity, number SC021474

Winner: Times Higher Education’s Widening Participation Initiative of the Year 2009 and Herald Society’s Education Initiative of the Year 2009.
http://www.gcu.ac.uk/newsevents/news/bycategory/theuniversity/1/name,6219,en.html

Winner: Times Higher Education’s Outstanding Support for Early Career Researchers of the Year 2010, GCU as a lead with Universities Scotland partners.
http://www.gcu.ac.uk/newsevents/news/bycategory/theuniversity/1/name,15691,en.html

The International Journal of Jungian Studies provides a forum and focus for the exciting and important work being done in Jungian and Post-Jungian studies across the world.

Membership privileges include participation in these thought provoking seminars. Enrich your mind. – REGISTER TODAY The annual membership is only GBP £50.00.
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