(ISSN 1466-4615)

Vol. 4 No. 21, September 2000



Silvio Gaggi

Reply to Wood




Aylish Wood

'Textual Subjects'

_Film-Philosophy_, vol. 4 no. 20, September 2000


I want to thank _Film-Philosophy_ for inviting me to respond to the review

of my book, _From Text to Hypertext_. I would also like to thank Aylish

Wood for what I see as a fair and thoughtful review overall. I think Wood

is correct in noting the ambivalence in the book regarding any judgement I

might have about the deconstructed subject, the book's expression of a

'tension between the sense of loss implied by the decentering and

fragmentation of the subject, versus the new possibilities that such a

process might provide'. I do see this as an immensely complicated problem,

opening up all sorts of possibilities and pitfalls, and, no doubt, various

sections of my book imply different evaluations. But I hope at least I've

effectively described how the problem of the subject and the issues related

to it arise from some specific works.


Let me respond to a couple specific points. Wood, in discussing my use of

twentieth-century theory in dealing with early painting, says:


'_The Wedding of Arnolfini_ was painted in the early Renaissance when ideas

about the individual were only coming into being. How appropriate is it,

then, to read this painting through late twentieth century ideas about



It seems to me that any theory that only worked when it was applied to

works by authors or artists who might be aware of the theory (who might

consciously or unconsciously incorporate the theory they knew) would be

compromised, so applying a theory to works that came into being prior to

the theory would be a necessary test of the theory's value. But also, it is

precisely the fact that works like _Arnolfini_ and _Christ Giving the Keys

to St Peter_ were painted at a time 'when ideas about the individual were

only coming into being' that makes them so interesting, at least to me.

These works show a kind of groping toward representing a coherent subject,

but they are also a little messy, a little incoherent in going about it.


Secondly, Wood is incorrect when claiming that Barbara Kruger's images 'are

directed towards the female viewer'. In fact, I state explicitly that the

gender of the individual addressed (the 'you' of her verbal slogans)

varies, though the gender addressed in the work I discuss most fully,

untitled but identified as _You Are Not Yourself_, is female (see p. 22).

Wood is right to imply that my claiming that the works 'are only directed

towards women' would be incorrect, but I never made such a sweeping claim.

There is the (implied) individual addressed by the verbal slogan, and there

is the real audience of Kruger's work. It would be most precise to state

that the gender of the individual addressed by the verbal slogans is

sometimes female, sometime male, though the audience of the work as a whole

would naturally include individuals of various sexes and genders. In other

words, the slogan 'You are not yourself' addresses a female; 'I am your

reservoir of poses' addresses a male. But both works (including both their

images and slogans) are going to be viewed by men and women.


I don't know about the gender category issue. I thought my section on

Kruger (pp. 19-25) brought out some of the complexities and instabilities

of gender categories, at least in relation to the category of woman.

Obviously more could be said about the instability of gender categories, a

lot more. Still, I don't think that it's quite accurate to suggest that I

don't even 'allud[e] to the difficulties of' such categories.


Thanks again for the review, which, in spite of these relatively minor

points, I thought was very much on target.


University of South Florida. USA



Copyright © _Film-Philosophy_ 2000


Silvio Gaggi, 'Reply to Wood', _Film-Philosophy_, vol. 4 no. 21, September

2000 <>.




Save as Plain Text Document...Print...Read...Recycle


Join the Film-Philosophy salon,

and receive the journal articles via email as they are published. here


Film-Philosophy (ISSN 1466-4615)

PO Box 26161, London SW8 4WD, England



Back to the Film-Philosophy homepage