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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte
Volume (Issue) 37(4)
Page(s) 379 - 394
Title of proceedings Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte
DOI 10.1002/bewi.201401698

Open Access

Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)


Presupposing that visual practices are inherent to the social constitution of knowledge, this article suggests juxtaposing photographs and films produced in a psychiatric environment to popular films run in theaters around 1900, thus identifying cinema’s particular „Denkstil“ (Fleck). Rejecting science’s dominating paradigm of visual objectivity (Daston/Galison), the visual apparatus [dispositif] of early cinema facilitates subjective experience of unreason and irrationality and thus initiates a different epistemological approach to knowledge as self-knowledge of a modern, self-reflexive subject. This is particularly evident in early cinema’s depiction of the psyche, which does not solely focus on the physical manifestation of the ‚mad’, ‚insane’ body, but also visualizes the subject’s inner life: technical means like montage, multiple exposure or stop motion can be employed to illustrate subjective visions, fantasies or dreams. Thus, the invisible mind becomes visible as the „unthinkable within thinking“ (Deleuze), while the subject is invited to participate in cinema’s „gay science“ (Nietzsche).