Based on the blog and some comments, it appears that Lopate’s essay on the essay-film has been perceived as somewhat … mystifying.

I’ll make two quick comments on it to at least guide how you might read it for maximal value in this class.

  1. Many, including Stephen Mulhall, whose work on Aliens you read earlier this semester, argue that thinking is not limited to verbal discourses (e.g., the written treatise or academic essay) but that people can think through (i.e., that they can have original thoughts by means of making) visual media. (I think Gary would agree with this!). For Mulhall, movies like the Aliens or Bladerunner movies in a way are already “essay-films” because through those films directors think and explore new thoughts on, e.g., personhood, gender, sexuality, etc. Do painters think through paintings, choreographers think through dance, and digital media artists think through digital media? I think the answer is yes. And I think most people would agree that these art forms help us learn about, or change our perceptions about, aspects of human life. Lopate, himself an accomplished essayist and film critic, is provocatively exploring this concept in his essay. And as Stephanie’s post yesterday anticipates, critical design might be the essay-interaction design. As I have said in this course and elsewhere, the purpose of a critical essay is to challenge us, to make us see things in a new way; the purpose of a critical essay is generally not to persuade you that it has the final or correct answer. Thus, an essay is successful if it makes you think, not if it persuades you that it is correct. 
  2. Lopate’s essay states in explicit and accessible terms what an essay is and does. Since I’m asking all of you to write a lengthy essay, it seems to me that you would want stuff that tells you in clear terms what you are supposed to be doing…..

I hope this at least partly answers the “what was he thinking?” question.