William Rothman's Vertigo

Rex Butler


This article examines William Rothman’s recent essay on Vertigo, ‘Scottie’s Dream, Judy’s Plan, Madeleine’s Revenge’, and particularly his suggestion that in a crucial scene towards the end of the film the character Judy deliberately puts on jewellery in order that Scottie becomes aware that she was the actress who played Madeleine. We look at why Rothman was previously unable to see this in the film, why Judy is unable directly to tell Scottie and why for Rothman a deep truth of the film (and of film in general) is this inability of Judy to tell Scottie. In order to address these issues, this article  looks at art historian Michael Fried’s notion of “absorption”, and particularly that interpretation of it offered by Lacanian cultural theorist Joan Copjec in ‘The Invention of Crying and the Antitheatrics of the Act’ in her collection Imagine There’s No Woman: Ethics and Sublimation.

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