Film-Philosophy Conference, Film-Philosophy Conference 2012

A Question of Listening: Nancean Resonance, Return and Relation in Charlie Chaplin

Carrie Giunta


A challenge from Peter Hallward claims Jean-Luc Nancy’s theory of relation is founded on non-relation and on the singular principles that haunt modern French philosophy.1 I argue that Nancy, in his work, Listening, engages with these problems by way of a discussion on resonance and the multiple meanings of listening.2 The discussion in Listening on Nancean resonance works as a foil to Hallward’s critique. In this way, Nancy preempts the claim from Hallward that his philosophy is based on a non-relation.

In this paper, I use a close reading of the silent films of Charlie Chaplin, in which his Tramp figure eludes speech, yet communicates meaning without speaking to illustrate my argument that Nancy’s philosophy is capable of the active mediation of listening. I examine how Chaplin listens through Nancean resonance and attention to others. Nancy considers who is listening as a place of resonance in which a sonorous body refers back to itself as other. By placing resonance, Nancy avoids creating a subject detached from an object or a subject present to itself. As a place of resonance, Chaplin makes the subject as other as he refers back waves of meaning to himself as other. Referring back to himself as other, Chaplin makes himself listened to and listens to himself as other.

1 Hallward, P. 2007. “Jean-Luc Nancy and the Implosion of Thought,” The Oxford Literary Review, 27, 159-180.

2 First published in 2002 in Paris as À L’écoute and later translated into English by Charlotte Mandell in 2007 as Listening.

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About the Presenter

Carrie Giunta
University of Dundee
United Kingdom

Carrie Giunta is a PhD candidate in Philosophy at the University of Dundee.